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Scratches on cmr minds.*. 



Scratches On Our Minds 

No Peace For Asia 

The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution 
New Cycle in Asia (editor) 

Contributor to 

As We See Russia 

South Asia in the World Today 


Two-Thirds of the World 
Africa: New Crises in the Making 




American Images of China and India 




1958 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must 
not be reproduced in any form without permission. 
Published by The John Day Company, 62 West 45th 
Street, New York 36, N. Y., and on the same day in 
Canada by Longmans, Green & Company, Toronto. 

Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 58-5692 
Manufactured in the United States of America 


The Blind Men and the Elephant 

Six blind beggars sitting by a roadside as an elephant passed were told 
they might touch it so that they would know what an elephant was like. 
The first one touched only the elephant's side and said, "He is like a 
wall!" The second one felt only his tusk and said, "No, no, he is like a 
spear." The third one took hold of his trunk and said, "Surely he is like 
a snake." "No such thing," cried the fourth, grasping one of his legs, "he 
is like a tree." The fifth was a tall man and took hold of his ear and said, 
"All of you are wrong, he is like a fan." The sixth man happened to catch 
hold of his tail and cried, "O foolish fellows, he is not like a wall, nor a 
spear, nor a snake, nor a tree, nor a fan; he is exactly like a rope." So the 
elephant passed on while the six blind men stood there quarreling, each 
being sure he knew exactly how the elephant looked, and each calling the 
others hard names because the rest did not agree with him. 



I OWE THE OPPORTUNITY to produce this work to the Center for 
International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
and its director, Max F. Millikan. The Center is a remarkable insti- 
tution devoted to inquiry into the current affairs of man, especially 
of American man and the multitude of new affairs that have pressed 
so hard and so swiftly in upon him in these years. The Center is 
not responsible for what appears in this book. Its philosophy as a 
research organization is based upon the freedom and full responsi- 
bility of the individual inquirer. I can only hope the work reflects 
back in some small degree the credit which association with the 
Center confers upon it. 

In addition to a hospitable philosophy, facilities, and support, 
this setting has provided the opportunity to benefit from discussion 
with colleagues and associates of many different bents and skills. 
As a longtime journalist now come among the practitioners of more 
formal disciplines, I found these encounters almost unfailingly in- 
structive. I have some debt almost to all whom I have met here, but 
for submitting so patiently to my many impositions on their time and 
for their contributions to my own thinking, I want to thank especially 
Raymond Bauer, George Coelho, Karl Deutsch, David Gleicher, 
Subbiah Kannapan, Suzanne Keller, Daniel Lerner, Howard Perlmut- 
ter, Ithiel Pool, Lucian Pye and Paul Rosenstein-Rodan. I have also 
had the advantage of comments from other friends and associates 
elsewhere who have been concerned in many different ways for many 
years with Asian affairs. If in thanking them here I abstain from nam- 
ing names, it is to avoid identifying thereby some of those who were 
good enough to participate in this inquiry not only by commenting 



on various chapters of the manuscript but by submitting to inter- 
views in the first place. 

Throughout I have had the extraordinarily competent aid of my 
research assistant, Mrs. Leigh R. Kambhu, who made order out of 
great masses of notes, tracked down scores of elusive references, 
culled press, periodicals, and the Congressional Record, monitored 
movies, radio, and TV, helped to organize the interview material in 
many different forms and under many different headings, and gen- 
erally performed every needful task with rewarding speed and skill, 
right up to the final careful preparation of the manuscript for pub- 

Mrs. Dorothy B. Jones made a special study, at our request, of the 
treatment of Chinese and Indian characters and themes in American 
films, and the frequent references to her report in my own text 
indicate the extent of my debt to her. I also have Mrs. Jones to thank 
for the photos from various films which appear as illustrations and 
the respective studios Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, Twentieth Century- 
Fox, R.K.O. and Paramountfor their prompt and courteous per- 
mission to use them. The names of the several newspapers and 
syndicates and artists whose cartoons I have used are duly credited 
where they appear in the text and I thank them all for their generous 

I am indebted to Arnold R. Isaacs for a number of vigilantly 
gleaned references from sources I might have ignored and of which 
I have been able to make much good use; to Deborah S. Isaacs for 
some faithful TV monitoring; and most profoundly of all, as always, 
to Viola R. Isaacs for her indispensable collaboration. The similarity 
of last names in this group is, happily, no coincidence. 

Finally, I want here to thank again the members of the panel, 
the men and women who submitted with such grace and interest 
to a difficult interview and who provided the primary raw material 
on which this report is based. I learned more from them than I have 
been able to put into this book. 

Cambridge, Massachusetts 
September, 1957 


Introduction 11 

I. "ASIA" 37 


Introduction 63 

1. A Panel-Eye View 72 

2. The Superior People 89 

3. The Inferior People 97 

4. "Chink, Chink, Chinaman" 109 

5. The Wards 124 

6. The Attractive People 140 

7. The Heroes Risen 164 

8. The Heroes Fallen 176 

9. The Ungrateful Wretches 190 
10. The Awakened Dragon 209 


Introduction 239 

1. The Fabulous Indians 243 

2. The Religionists and Philosophers 249 

3. The Very Benighted Heathen 259 

4. The Lesser Breed 271 

5. The Gandhi Image 290 

6. The Nehru Image 302 

7. The Indians Encountered 317 

8. The Gallery Revisited 366 


Index 409 

A section of illustrations from pho- 
tographs will be found following 


ISHAIX BE REPORTING in these pages the results of a rather intensive 
inquiry into some American ideas and impressions of China and 
India, and particularly of Chinese and Indians as people. A great 
deal that has turned up in this exploration of minds is new, or at 
least newly seen; some of it is bound to be pleasantly or unpleas- 
antly controversial. The bulk of this material was gathered by asking 
a good many people a great many questions during the course of 
more than a year. To most of their replies I usually rejoined: "And 
what do you base that on? 77 This is at all times a fair question, even 
if it is not always easy to answer. I assume that interested readers 
will want to put it to me in my turn. Those who would prefer to 
pass at once to the substance of my report can turn immediately to 
the first chapter that follows, where that story begins. But I hope 
that many will wait to discover first, as precisely as I can state it, 
the manner of this inquiry and of the people of whom it was made. 
The eruption of the "new" facts of China and India in American 
national life raises, among a few others, this question: What ideas, 
notions, and images do Americans have in their heads about these 
hitherto distant lands and peoples? Insofar as they have had to 
react, what did they have from their past to react with? What new 
or transformed impressions have begun to take shape out of the 
swift movements and many impacts of these recent years? The pub- 
lic prints and forums have ballooned with controversy and passion, 
annoyance, anger, and frustration, with fear and wonder, and even 
sometimes with near panic over images and events dimly seen in 
places where most people have scarcely ever looked before. Many 
could only gape at the uproar, absorbing this or that idea almost 
as they might breathe in rumors about a visitation from Mars. 



But what are these ideas that reach them, where do they come 
from, what do they feed upon? What mental equipment was 
brought to tear on all the confusion by those expected or required 
to have opinions or make decisions, those to whom the many pub- 
lics in the concentric circles of our society listen for cues? 

I began, early in 1954, to explore these and other questions with 
a number of individuals. Some were Asia specialists of one kind or 
another, some were writers or mass media specialists, and all were 
personal or professional acquaintances of mine over a considerable 
period of time. These conversations, we found, took us down paths 
rarely, if ever, consciously traveled before. As journalists or scholars, 
students of politics, history, literature, or language, all had been 
concerned with fact, event, idea, situation, and of course with peo- 
ple, but mostly with people as actors in the dramas that had caught 
and engaged our interests over the years. I could get the opinions 
of these individuals on a wide range of affairs, but it quickly devel- 
oped that these more or less considered opinions stood as only one 
cluster among many others much less plainly defined. We had, for 
example, seldom or never critically examined the spontaneous and 
untutored reactions we had to these countries as countries, to these 
people as people. What feelings about China or India had grown out 
of years of life there or out of what we had heard or read of what 
they were like? What feelings did we have about the Chinese or 
Indians we had known, either personally or in the mass, as we lived 
and moved among them, or encountered them elsewhere, in person, 
picture, or print? And why? 

Some striking and often unexpected answers began to emerge and 
recur in these talks. It became clear that a variety of unsupported 
or unsupportable assumptions, indeed all sorts of unticketed and un- 
acknowledged notions about these countries and peoples, floated 
about, even in such relatively schooled and orderly minds. What 
were they? Where did they come from? Which ones recurred? How 
did they resemble each other or differ from person to person, and 
why? These and a host of similar questions began clamoring for 
answers. Despite the dismayed surprise some felt over some of the 
notions that appeared in these exploratory talks, much of what 
turned up was actually familiar, but as old furniture is familiar, in 
constant use but unnoticed stereotyped notions, unexamined gen- 
eralizations, and, in some cases, hitherto unacknowledged or un- 
spoken prejudices. Some of these turned up unexpectedly around 


corners of the conversation, others hid in more obscure mental cran- 
nies and had to be drawn out for a look. As a rule, a person had 
never had to answer for any of these ideas or attitudes because, 
until now, they had never been questioned. I had begun by seeking 
out the studied judgments of these people; I had now acquired a 
brand-new interest in their unstudied notions and a great desire to 
know more of what might be the relation between the two, and this 
is what shaped my inquiry. I framed it into a more systematic inter- 
view designed to be used with a larger number of more varied peo- 
ple, more varied as to profession and degree of involvement with 
Asian affairs, but sharing in common some role in the flow of in- 
formation and ideas through our society. After testing this interview 
most profitably on some twenty patient and cooperative associates 
at the Center for International Studies, I set forth on my broader 


This quest led through 181 interviews in the next fourteen months. 

Let it be emphasized at once that this group of 181 is not a sam- 
ple in the sample-survey or polling sense of the term. There will be 
some obvious nose-counting done and some correlations of findings 
made within the group itself. But there is no intention here to meas- 
ure these interview results statistically. This study is not a poll in 
conception, method, or purpose. It is not intended to base any con- 
clusions or predictions on numbers or percentages, as such. The 
group interviewed is to be regarded as a panel of individual in- 
formants, not as a stratified sample. 

But on the other hand, let me make it also quite plain that I un- 
hesitatingly regard these individuals as representative examples of 
American leadership types, products of American education, religion, 
and politics. On a host of matters in their childhood associations, 
in educational experience, and in certain ideas and attitudes they 
turned out to share too many common patterns to be regarded on 
all counts as unique unto themselves. These common holdings will 
often reinforce me where, on my own responsibility, I make certain 
generalizations, whether about people of this sort or about the 
broader meanings and applications of what I have learned from 
this inquiry. 


By Key Place in a Given Sphere 

These 181 individuals were selected as informants, then, and were 
chosen according to who or what they were. This is to say that in 
many cases I went after a particular individual by name. In others, 
I sought out whatever person happened to occupy a particular posi- 
tion, such as high office in a certain type of company, key posts in 
certain government departments, public bodies, and organizations, 
or key editorial slots on certain important publications. 

As it finally appears here, the panel of 181 includes 32 individuals 
who can be called nationally prominent, in the sense that their 
names are well known to wide publics outside their own spheres 
in at least half a dozen cases having or approaching the status of 
household names. There are 77 individuals who are professionally 
prominent, in the sense that their names would be quite well known 
to all concerned in their particular fields, professions, or interests. 
Finally, there are 72 who occupy positions significant for the pur- 
poses of this inquiry but who do not command such broader profes- 
sional or public notice. These individuals were sought out in a great 
variety of places where they perform many different functions in our 
society. But the primary basis for selection was the one thing they 
all have in common: they all play an important or significant role in 
what we broadly call the communications process. Each one in some 
meaningful way influences or has influenced the flow of ideas and 
information and the patterning of attitudes among one or more of 
the many publics who compose the people. Thus the first and major 
category of selection was by key place in a given sphere, and in this 
respect the group is distributed as follows: 

L Academic World 41 

II. Mass Media (Press, Radio-TV, Writers, Publishers) . . 40 

III. Government 28 

IV. Ex-Government 12 

V. Business 13 

VI. Groups Concerned with Public Opinion and Education . 27 
VII. Church-Missionary Groups 20 

TOTAL 181 

Some of the individual contributors to this study stand by them- 
selves as highly visible names and personalities, but the great bulk 
derive their special importance from their association in various 
capacities with all sorts of institutions. Before partially listing them, 
it may be necessary to state what should be obvious: that these in- 


stitutions as such can in no way necessarily be associated with the 
views or attitudes of these individuals, especially in the form in 
which these are reported in the present study. They are all large 
institutions with large numbers of highly varied people in key places 
on their staffs. In some of the most important instances, interviews 
have been conducted with a number of people in the same organiza- 
tion precisely to tap this variety. In all but a very few such bodies, 
the guiding or animating ideas are a complex to which many dif- 
ferent elements contribute. The members of the present panel are 
important because they are among these contributing elements, not 
because they necessarily or decisively shape the outlooks of the insti- 
tutions to which they belong. In a few cases, the identity between a 
single individual and an institution may be so close and so well 
known that the association is all but automatic; wherever this fact 
could endanger the commitment of privacy made in these interviews, 
the name of the institution has been omitted. With these qualifica- 
tions and deletions, the list, totaling 86, is as follows: 

L Academic 

Amherst College University of California (Berkeley) 

Brooklyn College University of California (Los An- 

Comell University geles) 

Harvard University University of Chicago 

Howard University University of Minnesota 

Massachusetts Institute of Technol- University of Pennsylvania 

ogy Yale University 
Princeton University 

Individuals in this category are identified with the following aca- 
demic disciplines: 

Anthropology International Relations 

Economics Political Science 

Electrical Engineering Psychology 

Geography Social Psychology 

History Sociology 

II. Mass Media 

Newspapers: New York Herald Tribune 

Chicago Daily News New York Times 

Chicago Sun-Times Pittsburgh Courier 

Christian Science Monitor Washington Post 

Denver Post Magazines: 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune Life 



The Reporter 

Saturday Review of Literature 

U.S. News and World Report 
Press Services: 

III. Government 
Department of the Army 
Department of Commerce 
Department of State 

Foreign Operations Administration 
International Educational Exchange 

IV. Ex-Government 
Department of the Army 
Department of Commerce 

V. Business 

California-Texas Oil Company 
Doubleday Company, Inc. 
International General Electric Com- 

General Motors Overseas Corpora- 

Associated Press 
United Press 
Radio-TV Networks: 

Columbia Broadcasting System 
National Broadcasting Company 

Operations Coordination Board 
U.S. House of Representatives 
U.S. Information Agency 
U.S. Senate 

Department of State 

Irving Trust Company 
National City Bank of New York 
Standard Vacuum Oil Company 
C. V. Stan Company 
Westinghouse International Com- 

VI. Groups Concerned wtih Public Opinion and Education 

American Institute of Public Opinion 
American Universities Field Staff 
Carnegie Endowment for Interna- 
tional Peace 

Congress of Industrial Organizations 
Democratic National Committee 
Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships 
Ford Foundation 
Girl Scouts of America 
India League of America 
International Farm Youth Exchange 
International Research Associates 

VII. Church and Missionary Groups 

Christian Herald 
Christian Medical Council 
The Churchman 
The Churchwoman 

Board of Foreign Missions, Presby- 
terian Church in the U.S. A. 

League of Women Voters 

The Minnesota Poll 

National Association for the Ad- 
vancement of Colored People 

National Opinion Research Center 

Republican National Committee 

Rockefeller Foundation 

Elmo Roper Associates 

Washington International Affairs 

Young Women's Christian Associa- 

and Publications 

Hartford Seminary Foundation 
Maryknoll Seminary 
Methodist Board of Missions 
National Council of Churches of 

Christ in America 
Union Theological Seminary 
Yale Divinity School. 


By Degree of Involvement in Asian Affairs 

The second and only other major basis for selection of informants 
was by the degree of their involvement in aspects of Asian affairs. 
This was classified in three ways: 

PRIMARY: The intensive and usually prolonged involvement of the 
specialist; as a rule, though not always, also including lengthy 
residence in the country or area of interest; typically, the scholar 
or educator, journalist, missionary, or government official whose 
career has been largely or wholly identified with work in Asia 
or relating to Asia. 

SECONDARY: Some degree of professional involvement in an Asian 
area or problem, either for some brief period in the past or, more 
typically, during the last six or seven years; often, though not al- 
ways, including brief visits or sojourns in Asia in connection with 
this work; e.g., the economist concerned in recent years with prob- 
lems of development; the journalist or publicist who has interested 
himself in Asian policy problems since these became acute; the 
government official who has had to make Asia his business, usually 
since 1949 or even more recently. 

INCIDENTAL OR NONE: Shading from some much scantier and pe- 
ripheral involvement to none at all, except for the impact of day- 
to-day news and/or the incidental reading of the serious citizen; 
sometimes, though rarely, individuals in this group have traveled 
briefly in parts of Asia. 

Grouped in this manner, the panel of 181 shows up as follows: 

Primary 49 

Secondary 59 

Incidental or none 73 

TOTAL 181 

As the panel begins to acquire shape by being grouped under 
these various headings, certain facts about its members begin to 
emerge rather strikingly from the initial patterns they tend to form. 
These are not, as a rule, part of the conscious research design but 


emerge from it ? and they usually turn out to reflect some clearly 
recognizable realities. 

Consider, for example, the group of 49 with primary involvement 
in Asian affairs. The group includes 25 Indian specialists, 1 16 China 
specialists, and 8 others who either were specialists with regard to 
other countries of Asia or were area "generalises" concerned with 
wider geographic groupings or problems. The fact that there are more 
India than China specialists is not accidental and will be explained 
elsewhere. But as it stands, the India group turns out to include 
only 13, or a little more than half, whose involvement in India ante- 
dates World War II. Of these all but three are missionaries or busi- 
nessmen, and even one of these three is the son of a missionary 
family. There are only two professional scholars whose interest dates 
back to before 1941? and ? characteristically, one deals in the hu- 
manities and the other in anthropology. Only one of the group 
comes close to being describable as a journalist, but even his aus- 
pices were not primarily journalistic; it is, in fact, impossible to 
think of any American journalist who made his career primarily by 
reporting India in the years before the war. There is not a single 
government official or diplomat among these prewar India specialists, 
for the good and obvious reason that no such specialist-official 
existed. By way of contrast, consider the list of 16 China specialists. 
They all antedate World War II. They include not only missionaries, 
businessmen, and scholars the latter in history and political science 
but also six journalists and writers, four diplomats, and one army 
officer, all of whom lived and worked in China for periods ranging 
from a decade to a lifetime. 

The lists of those with secondary involvements show similarly 
meaningful differences. Of the total of 59, 33 have to do with India, 
and all but one of these postdate World War II, and even the in- 
volvement of the single exception was rather scanty and remote. 
Among the 59, there are only 7 identified with China, and of these 
five antedate World War II. There are 19 others whose involvement 
tends to cut across various Asian boundaries, all since the war, and 

1 It was estimated in 1953 that there were then "possibly sixty or seventy 
Americans" in various pursuits with "authoritative knowledge" relating to India. 
(Norman Brown: The United States and India and Pakistan, Cambridge, 1953, 
p. 265). Even allowing for certain important differences in the criteria used by 
Professor Brown and those used here, his estimate makes my total of 25 sound 
like a sizeable proportion of the total number of American specialists on India 
at the time this study was undertaken. 


many of these are government officials, all of whom encountered Asia 
as a working problem for the first time in their present jobs, dating 
back only during the last few years. 

These differences illustrate quite sharply the corresponding differ- 
ences between the degrees and kinds of American involvement with 
China and India over time, the older, longer, deeper, more varied 
American preoccupations with the Chinese, and the newer, more re- 
cent, more superficial, and more restricted contacts with India. 
These differences will have a large role to play in the patterns of 
idea and image which will be unfolded in these pages. 

By Travel and Personal Contact 

These ideas and images derive in many different ways from the 
kind and amount of contact these individuals have had with these 
countries and peoples. Since the relationship between image and 
contact will be examined in some detail later on, some pains have 
been taken to group the members of the panel in this respect. Here, 
again, some rather meaningful facts emerge even from the bare re- 
capitulation of the details. 

Of the whole panel of 181 only 7 have never been abroad at all. 

A total of 112 have traveled or lived in parts of Asia, including 
99 who have been in India and 43 in China. Of these, 30 have spent 
some time in both countries. Within this group also there are 38 
who have been in Japan and 48 in Southeast Asia. The periods of 
time range from a few days to decades, as indicated by this list 
applying to the China and India groups: 

India China 

More than 20 years 4 "1 6 1 

10-20 years . 6 I % 3 I g% 

5-io years 3 f ^ 4 P 

1-5 years 21 J 12 J 

6-12 months n 6 

2-5 months 19 3 

3-6 weeks 7 3 

Less than 3 weeks 21 5 

Duration not given 7 i 

TOTAL 99 43 

It is, again, characteristic that of the 34 with more than one year's 
experience in India, only 13 antedate World War II, while of the 
25 in this class in China, all but one go back that far. The larger 
numbers which show up in the India column for the shorter periods 



represent, in all but a very few cases, the onset of professional^ po- 
litical, or other interest in India during and since the war. This is 
especially true of the 30 who have been in India for periods ranging 
from two to twelve months, and of the 28 whose visits lasted only 
from a few days to six weeks. For obvious reasons, there are no com- 
parable groups where China is concerned, since Americans stopped 
going to China after 1949. 

Reverting to the panel as a whole, while there are 70 who have 
never been to any part of Asia at all-corresponding roughly though 
not precisely to the 73 with incidental or no involvement in Asian 
affairs there are only 34 who have never been to Europe. As might 
be expected of such a group, its travel in the world outside of Asia 
has been frequent, wide, and often intensive. There are 147 who 
have been to Europe, of whom 80 record more than a year's time 
on that continent. There are among them 18 who have also been 
to Africa, 19 to different parts of the Middle East, and 30 to Latin 

There are naturally great differences in the kinds and degrees of 
personal contact these individuals have had with Chinese and In- 
dians, and these obviously influence in many ways the sorts of im- 
pressions and ideas they have. In the following listing of the kinds 
of contact indicated by the members of our panel, it will be noted 
that only one panelist said he had never encountered any Indian, 
and 9 had never met any Chinese, and that the great bulk of the 
contact with both Indians and Chinese has been with visitors and 
travelers or students in this country. The large number, 51, who 
noted that they had experienced brief contact with Indians of the 
official and intellectual classes in India again signals the presence 
of many panelists who have had recent occasion to travel for short 
periods to India on various missions. 

In the following listing, there are of course panelists who listed 
more than one kind of contact, and the percentages are added to 
relate these numbers to the panel-total of 181: 

With Indians With Chinese 

Extensive, all sorts . . . . (In India) 17 (9%) (In China) 20 (11%) 
Extensive, intellectuals, offi- 
cials, etc (In India) 18 (10%) (In China) 7 (4%) 

Brief, intellectuals, officials, 

etc (Inlndia) 51 (28%) (In China) 19 (10%) 


Intellectuals, officials, visitors, 

etc., in U.S. (or Europe) . 81 (43%) 57 (32%) 

Few students in U.S. (or 

Europe) 25 (14%) 40 (22%) 

Brief, intellectuals, officials, 

etc., Formosa only ... 6 (3%) 

Overseas Chinese only 

(Southeast Asia) ... 12 (6%) 

None at all i 9(5%) 

By What They Read 

These are all people who work hard at keeping themselves in- 
formed. Either in reply to direct questions about what they had read 
concerning Asia or in passing references, they mentioned over 200 
books or authors, 35 newspapers, and 56 American and foreign 
periodicals. In addition, almost all read their own specialized pro- 
fessional journals and a great variety of special newsletters, bulle- 
tins, or reports. By far the largest single number, 126, said that they 
depended for their daily news fare on The New York Times. This 
was a rather remarkable testimonial to the indispensability of that 
newspaper, since only about half of these individuals actually lived 
in or near New York. 

Besides many scattered mentions of a large number of local dailies 
in various cities, the other principal newspapers named were the 
New York Herald Tribune (by 37), Washington Post (also by 37), 
and the Christian Science Monitor (22). The list of weeklies and 
periodicals was led by Time (43), Newsweek (29), Foreign Affairs 
(26), Harper's (26), Atlantic (25), Reporter (23), Life (22), and 
the London Economist (17). Although listening to radio news is 
presumably still an almost universal habit, only a few thought to 
mention it as a serious source of information about Asia. There was 
no association at all of such information and television. 

By the Vital Statistics 

Certain other discernible features of the 181 either follow logically 
from the major premises of selection or are, in the main, a matter 
of chance. Again, they form not so much a part of the research 
design as they are a part of the findings, to which, incidentally, they 
are often remarkably pertinent. 


AGE: Since I have been concerned almost exclusively with people 
in positions of leadership or importance, it follows that all but a few 
are of mature age, as follows: 


51-60 ..... .... 02 

61-70 ......... 14 

71-80 ......... J_ 

TOTAL 181 

ECONOMIC STATUS: An important place in the communications 
network of our society almost automatically implies a relatively com- 
fortable economic status. Our national sages are more likely nowa- 
days to occupy suites in the Waldorf Towers than a hut on Walden 
Pond, and to be listened to from a park bench you have to be a 
millionaire. Almost all the members of this panel unsurprisingly 
described themselves as belonging to the "middle class." Some, no 
doubt among the academics, journalists, and government officials, 
might think of themselves as insufficiently prosperous, but this is a 
relative state, both of being and of mind. Aside from the mission- 
aries, this panel probably includes very few individuals earning 
salaries below $9,000 a year, with the bulk of them enjoying, by 
every indicator, between $10,000 and $20,000, and some moving far, 
far behind that to the outer regions of pelf. By all the ordinary 
dollars-and-cents criteria, this must be called an upper-middle to 
upper group. 

EDUCATION: It also follows that with the few usual and notable 
exceptions of the self-educated, this would tend to be a highly 
schooled group, and so it turns out to be. Of the 181, only 10 had 
never gone to college and 12 2 had attended but not taken degrees. 
In view of what this study will have to report about the contribu- 
tion of our educational system to an educated person's knowledge 
of Asia, it is of more than incidental interest to report that the re- 
maining 159 individuals hold among them, besides a scattering of 
honorary degrees, a total of 56 Ph.D/s and 7 other assorted doctoral 
diplomas, including 2 in medicine, 2 in divinity, and 3 in law; 69 
master's degrees, and 173 bachelor's degrees. They hold these from 

2 Four of these, a special subgroup, were still undergraduates when inter- 


116 different institutions of higher learning, including 15 foreign 
universities and colleges, the largest clusters being: 34 from Harvard, 
20 from Columbia, 19 from Yale. 

By the Emergent Profile 

The process of bringing together the facts I can use about the 
contributors to this study has been a process not only of description 
but of discovery. It has been a little like using the child's drawing 
board with which, on rubbing a top sheet with finger or pencil, you 
can bring to light a recognizable likeness hitherto concealed beneath. 
Although I put this particular board together myself, the features 
that have been revealed have proved to be even more familiar than 
I had reason to expect. 

I have already given the primary criteria by which individuals 
were selected for interview. There were certain other bases for de- 
liberate choice. A conscious effort was made, for example, to include 
some women, some Negroes. Since so many of the informants were 
well-known public figures, I was obviously aware in advance not 
only of their professional and public status, but also often of their 
political complexion and sometimes, in plain cases, of their religious 
backgrounds. Where I could do so, I made every effort to assure 
roughly balanced groupings of "liberals" and "conservatives/ 7 I made 
a particularly strenuous effort to include some recognized protag- 
onists of all the most important visible "sides" of public debate on 
various controversial issues in Asian- American affairs. In some cases, 
in search of maximum counterbalance to some of the views I was 
collecting, I deliberately sought out persons from whom I thought 
I would get views of a different kindan expectation, I might add, 
that was not always realized. 

These deliberate choices account for some of the distributions in 
a moderately substantial number of cases. In a great many more, 
however, the distribution of many of these characteristics was wholly 
uncalculated. When I approached, say, an officer of an important 
firm doing business in India, I made no effort to determine in ad- 
vance whether he was liberal or conservative, Republican or Demo- 
crat, Protestant, Catholic, or Jew. I was interested, in effect, in 
whatever kind of person I found sitting in these places. The result 
is that by far the larger number of classifications of this kind which 
appear in the group are a matter of pure chance. This is wholly the 
case with regard to places of birth; I did conduct a small number 


of interviews in the Midwest and in California, but I had no inter- 
est at all in selecting informants according to their geographic 

Despite this large element of the uncontrolled and unchosen, the 
panel has turned out to have to a remarkable degree many of the 
more obvious features of our national profile. It is predominantly 
white (174) and of Protestant background (137) with minorities of 
Catholics (12), Jews (sg) 3 , and Negroes (7). In these positions of 
top and upper-level leadership the panel, like our society, includes 
along with a large majority of men only a small number of women 

Along our national political spectrum, the interviewees distribute 
themselves likewise in clearly recognizable fashion. By the labels 
which the}* used to describe themselves, which I have for 171 of the 
181, reading, so to speak, from approximately Right to approxi- 
mately Left, they emerge as follows: 

"American Nationalist" ............. i 

"Conservative" ............... 3 

"Republican" ................ 36 

"Progressive Moderate" ............. 2 

"Liberal Conservative" ............. 2 

"Democrat" ................ 65 

"Independent" ............... 25 

"Nonpartisan" ................ 2 

"Earl Warren Republican or Middle-of-the-road Democrat" . i 

"Liberal Independent" ............. ^ 

"Free Man" ................ ! 

"Liberal" ..... . ........... 1]L 

"Left of Center" ... ......... ! ! .' i 

"More repelled by Republicans than by Democrats" ... i 

"Socialist" ................. 2 

"Democratic Socialist" ............ ] i 

"Independent Social Democrat" ... -, 

"Radical" .......... !!!!!!! i 

"Don't classify myself 7 ............. 1 

Unavailable .......... !!!!!" 

TOTAL 181 

3 The larger number of Jews as compared to Catholics is, of course, a depart- 
ure from the national pattern. It is doubtful whether a census of people occupy- 
ing the positions and levels tapped for this study would justify this difference 


If we clip off the extremes and prorate the liberals to the three 
remaining large groups on this list, the result shows roughly 69 
Democrats, 47 Republicans, and 44 Independents. These proportions 
come surprisingly close to the national estimates generally used by 
the major political parties in the 1952 election campaign. As pro- 
jected by George Gallup, they showed the country to be divided 
among 22 million Democrats, 17.5 million Republicans, 15.5 million 
Independents. 4 

There is another and perhaps more meaningful basis for describ- 
ing the political complexion of the interviewees. Besides being asked 
for the political labels they applied to themselves, they were also 
asked to register their measure of agreement or disagreement with 
the views of thirteen important figures in national political life, 
selected to range along a scale from "liberal" to "conservative," as 
these terms are used in American politics, i.e., from Chester Bowles, 
Harry Truman, and Adlai Stevenson through President Eisenhower 
to John Foster Dulles, Senator Knowland, and General Douglas 
MacArthur. On this scale the findings are: 

Liberal 96 

Mixed 36 

Conservative 27 

Unavailable 22 

By laying these indications alongside the self-labels given by the 
interviewees themselves, I find these interesting juxtapositions: 

96 "Liberals" .... 44 "Democrats" 
13 "Republicans" 
20 "Independents" 

12 "Liberals" or "Liberal 

4 "Socialists" 
i Other 

36 "Mixed" .... 13 "Democrats" 

13 "Republicans" 
7 "Independents" 
i "Liberal" 

i "Socialist" 
i Other 

27 "Conservatives" . . 4 "Democrats" 
17 "Republicans" 
6 "Independents". 

4 American Institute of Public Opinion, January i, 15, 17, 1952. 


Here, despite the unavoidable imprecisions of American political 
terminology and the large chance of error through indefiniteness, it 
seems quite possible to glimpse a wholly familiar reflection of the 
American political profile, in which certain regional and ideological 
features superimpose themselves on the fictions of formal identifica- 
tions. It is remarkable here only insofar as it emerges in this fashion 
from a random number of people selected primarily for quite other 

Perhaps the most striking and certainly the most unplanned of 
these correspondences occurs in the matter of distribution by place 
of birth. In almost all other respects that have been mentioned 
there was at least some measure of choice present, but the matter 
of birthplace never in any way entered the process of selection. As 
already indicated, these 181 individuals were chosen only in terms 
of who and what they were in relation to communications in our 
society. All but a few are now located in the northeastern part of 
the country, where most of the interviews took place. Nevertheless, 
it developed that these 181 individuals were born and usually 
raised and often educated in 35 of the 48 states and in 12 foreign 
countries. Those born abroad include 4 Americans born in China 
and 4 in India, but the remaining 9 countries represent almost all 
the principal sources of origin of immigrants to this country over 
the generations. 

Plotted against the regional figures for total population and for 
total number of college graduates, these distributions disclose a quite 
unexpected measure of correspondence to our national profile, ex- 
cepting only for the South, which by this count would be under- 
represented in the panel. I offer these figures as some kind of testi- 
mony to the mobility among these elements of our population, but 
I trust that it is plain that they do not bear in any significant way 
on the present study. No attempt was made to group any regional 
communications patterns as such. Certain geographic factors are of 
course meaningful but are illustrated in the panel only by individual 
examples, i.e., a Midwestern Congressman will be likely to reflect 
some of the characteristics of Midwestern political outlooks; Mid- 
westerners also seem to have had more early contact with missionary 
enterprise; Califomians in certain age brackets may have some dis- 
tinctive patterns of early experience relating to Chinese; some South- 
erners may be conditioned a bit differently on matters relating to 


race. These will all be mentioned in their place, but as individual 
cases, not as statistics. 

So much, then, for the premises of selection, the main groupings, 
the vital statistics, and the emergent profile. They add up to about 
all I can tell about the interviewees without disclosing names or iden- 
tities. It is good if this information helps to make the panel of in- 
formants more recognizable as a group, and even better if it 
reinforces in some measure the sense of validity of the findings based 
upon what they have said. But I must stress once more and finally 
that these numbers will not be used, as such, to support distribu- 
tions in any larger universe. In their respective groupings these indi- 
viduals are presented as examples, not as a stratified sample, of their 
kinds. I repeat, this does not mean that I will not try to draw larger 
sense from their assembled uniquenesses. It simply means that in 
doing so I will be governed by my own appreciation of the material 
before me, not by the showing of the digits. 


All but 19 of the 181 individuals in the panel were subjected to ap- 
proximately the same interview. 

The 19 include the 12 with whom I had the first exploratory con- 
versations and 7 others whom, for various reasons, I had to interview 
in a similarly informal manner. The material from these interviews 
covers much, though not all, of the important ground covered by 
the more systematic schedule used in the great bulk of the inter- 
views. It has been collated with all the rest and, as far as it goes, 
has been included in the results. 

In the other 162 cases, it is necessary to say that "approximately" 
the same interview was held, because it was impossible to complete 
precisely the same number of questions with every person. Inevitably, 
there were some informants with too little to say on some matters 
and some with too much to say on others. In some instances, there 
were unavoidable restrictions on time, so that choices had to be 
made, some questions covered and the rest foregone. Finally, some 
groups of questions were used for short periods, like mobile bat- 
teries, aimed at temporary targets when they appeared and with- 
drawn according to circumstances, e.g., questions relating to the 
Dienbienphu crisis in 1954 or, early in 1955, to the Quemoy-Matsu 


island issue. These remained quite incidental to the main attack, 
which was sustained and constant throughout and produced a great 
majority of substantially completed interviews. The various occa- 
sional omissions mean, however, that the tabulations and groupings 
of answers do not always neatly add up to the total of 181. 

The interview itself was designed not merely to extract opinions 
and information but to give the fullest possible freedom to the play 
of association, memory, idea, for the retrieval of the forgotten bits 
and pieces of experience from which we all draw so much of what 
we think. It attempted to combine several kinds of interrogation. 
It tried to draw of course in varying degree and with varying suc- 
cesson the ground-covering directness of the serious journalist, the 
question-wording care of the opinion researcher, the detail-interest 
of the anthropologist, a few of the probing techniques of the psy- 
chiatrist, and some of the built-in measuring tools of the more formal 
social scientist. Within the limits of the time it took-usually two 
but sometimes three or four hours it was moderately thorough, 
occasionally exhausting, and-to judge from interviewee reaction 
seldom dull. As already indicated, it was conducted on the basis 
of a rigid commitment that there would be no quotation attributed 
to any identifiable individual. This has offered some problems of 
presentation, but these are almost all a matter of form and style 
and are, I trust, solved in these pages without default. 

More than half and often two-thirds of the interview time was 
given over to probing for attitudes and feelings and their sources. 
It made mild use of the technique of free association through which 
the informant, rather than the interviewer, introduced the leads that 
were then followed by persistent questioning. The probing was for 
associations and impressions, even the most vagrant ideas, notions, 
or images relating to China and India and to Chinese and Indians. 
Thus the interview schedule would show questions like: "When you 
think of China, what comes to your mind?" Or: 'When you think 
of these Indians you have met or known, what comes to your mind 
about them?" It would not, of course, show the further questions, 
sometimes dozens of them, which the initial answers provoked and 
which were never asked to lead but always to pursue. The remainder 
of the interview was designed to unfold the individual's principal 
sources of information, his major identifications in public affairs, 
the quality of his knowledge about current Asian politics and prob- 
lems, his views of contemporary China and India and of American 


policy problems relating to them, his opinions of what was being 
done and what ought to be done, his expectations for the future. 
Most of this information could be recorded in short answers to 
various batteries of rapid-fire questions. 

With notably few exceptions, the individuals interviewed proved 
responsive, communicative, candid, and often quite stimulated by 
the unfamiliar experience of self-examination in these particular mat- 
ters. Despite preliminary explanations, the interview was usually not 
at all what they expected. The surprise and novelty of the opening 
questions tended to loosen any initial inhibitions. Recall was quick 
and easy for some, quite difficult for others, but once the juices 
began to flow, the process of remembering and thinking about one's 
thoughts continued for the rest of the interview. I noticed few de- 
partures from the fact, well known to any reporter, that there is no 
more fascinating subject to a person than what he himself thinks or 
feels. A serious inquiry into this subject is an honest kind of flattery, 
and there are few so utterly self-contained as not to respond to it. 
This would be especially true when, as was usually the case, the 
subject matter did not appear to draw too close to the more sensi- 
tive areas of the self. When, as sometimes happened, it unexpectedly 
did so, the effects were as a rule quite instructive, for by that time 
the mood for candor generally had been established. 

Much of what was asked had to do with impressions that were 
often vaguely held and rarely, if ever, put in words before. The inter- 
viewee found himself called upon to remember, to express, to ex- 
plain, and, so to speak, to document a whole collection of his own 
hitherto unexamined ideas or notions. This was frequently a salutary 
and sobering experience, as many ultimately remarked. Such an in- 
quiry may be easier to make in the present American cultural setting 
in which people have grown used to the idea of having doorbells 
rung by a question-asker and in which people of the kind involved 
in this study have become especially aware of the importance and 
validity of social science research. In most other cultures of which I 
know anything, communication at the level achieved in the present 
interviews occurs only after a much more explicit personal identifica- 
tion and relationship has been established. To be sure, I was person- 
ally acquainted with many of those whom I sought out, but to many 
more I was a total stranger. I was met by fewer than half a dozen 
refusals, whereas scores of stereotypically rushed and busy Americans, 
often in high places, stopped to give a stranger two hours or more 


of their time to answer questions that entered quite deep areas of 
their life histories, experience, and states of mind. I had the repeated 
experience of entering such a man's office or in many cases, his 
home with no other introduction than my previous letter, and of 
plunging him, in a matter of minutes, into a process of self-examina- 
tion which was often new, arousing, and even disturbing to him. 
There was, in all cases, the knowledge of the legitimacy of the aus- 
pices of the study, but there was also an implicit understanding of 
the usefulness and importance of participating in research, an auto- 
matic acceptance of the good faith of the pledge of confidence, a 
notable degree of candor, a free and interesting yielding to the spirit 
of the inquiry. This was most impressive in itself, quite apart from 
the merits of these individuals or the quality or content of the ideas 
they turned out to hold. In more ways than one, these 181 men and 
women have been my teachers. 

What I learned I took down verbatim in all essentials. No use 
was made of convenient synonyms. The actual language of the in- 
terviewee was recorded, ultimately transcribed onto cards, and shuf- 
fled with all the others for analysis by a variety of methods in a 
variety of combinations. The yes-or-no or otherwise short answers 
were, of course, easily recorded, and later also transferred to cards. 
These records are the primary materials from which this report has 
been written. 

But these are by no means all. Besides these 181 interviews, there 
were innumerable other conversations in a great assortment of places. 
I naturally formed the habit of throwing some of my questions at any 
target of opportunity and must have often made an odd kind of 
occupant of the next seat on a plane or chance sharer of a dining 
car table, not to say a rather odd kind of host in my own home. 
Much that was salient in these brief encounters found its way into 
the diary notes which were kept mainly to record impressions and 
ideas gleaned from the interviews as they accumulated. The inter- 
views themselves opened up many other paths of investigation, and 
some of these were traveled for a fair distance. References to movies 
as sources led to the commissioning of a separate study in Holly- 
wood, to which further reference will be made. Cullings were taken 
from the press, the Congressional Record, and a number of other 
sources to check the appearance and recurrence of many of the most 
common images indicated by the interviewees. Frequent mention 
of comics and cartoons led to a collection of samples from news- 


papers and magazines over many years. Recurring mentions of certain 
books and authors sent me back for an extended rereading of a 
shelfful of novels, stories, and other works, newly seen this time for 
the images they created and the influence they exerted. The search 
for historical sources led to many other shelves and stacks, including 
some in my own mind long unvisited, producing re-examination and 
reappraisal of material first encountered long ago. All this too is 
woven into the fabric of this report and forms an essential part of 
its design. 


As may be evident by now, it is a basic proposition here that an 
inquiry cannot be divorced from the inquirer. Another inquirer 
might have asked different questions or asked the same questions 
differently. The reader therefore has the right and the need to know 
the relevant things not only about the question-answerers and the 
questions put, but also about the question-asker. Some of these have 
doubtless already emerged in these pages, but before I can finally 
banish the more obvious presence of the first person singular, I will 
have to set forth as directly as I can something about my own cre- 
dentials, ideas, biases, and approach, and their possible influence on 
this inquiry. 

If I had been on the answering instead of the asking end of this 
study, I would have had to be identified as a writer in motion be- 
tween the spheres of journalism and scholarship, emigrant or com- 
muter I am not sure which between the mass media and the 
academic world. My professional training has been that of a re- 
porter. I would also have to be placed among those described as 
having primary involvement in matters pertaining to Asia. This 
would be based on about eight years 7 residence and travel, before, 
during, and after World War II, the bulk of it in China, with only 
occasional visitor status in India, as part of a much longer period of 
almost exclusive preoccupation with Asian politics and international 
relations. My personal contacts would be extensive with Chinese of 
all sorts in China, though mostly with the kind of people most likely 
to be interested in politics and ideas, and much more limited with 
Indians, who would be exclusively of the latter sort. 

This history suggests the possible presence, or danger, of certain 
biases. There are certainly limits to my ability to identify or dis- 
count them all, but this exercise in explicitness requires me to try. 


My own greater interest in China in past years might have led me, 
for example, to gravitate, especially among the specialists, to China 
people. In fact, the panel, as already indicated, ended up with 25 
identified as primarily involved with India and 16 with China. 
Since there are so few India specialists and relatively so many more 
for China, this is clearly disproportionate, at least in the numerical 
sense. But the reasons for this go beyond any attempt merely to 
compensate for possible error through natural gravitation. China 
people are not only more numerous but in certain respects better 
known, not only to me personally but because of the high visibility 
of the China problem during the last decade or so of sharp public 
controversy. It was comparatively easy to make a selection that 
would include not only types in different fields but also known 
protagonists for different points of view. The India specialists were 
not only fewer in number but tended also to be scholars, mission- 
aries, or businessmen whose views, say, on current Indian politics, 
would not usually be available to me until I sought them out and 
asked them. In the matter of underlying images and personal reac- 
tions, this was always a matter of fresh discovery, even in the case 
of China specialists well known to me. I found, however, much 
greater relative uniformity on this score among the China people 
than among the India specialists and had to reach out for larger 
numbers of the latter to get a clearer and fairer picture of the range 
of attitudes. 

I have already mentioned that I was personally acquainted with 
many whom I interviewed. Since my whole personal history has been 
in the news field and, more broadly, in the field of communica- 
tions relating to Asia, it would have been impossible for me to seek 
out so many people in important roles in precisely this field without 
reaching many whom I would know. As I check the list of inter- 
viewees I note, as a matter of fact, that of the total of 181, I had 
previously known 82, In addition there were 10 whom I did not 
know personally who indicated during the interview that they were 
acquainted with me through having read something I had written. 
Of the 82 there are 30 individuals whom I could say I knew quite 
well and 52 with whom my acquaintance was primarily professional. 
I am bound to say that I have taken a long look at these 82 names 
to try to determine whether in fact any biased selection did take 
place. I come up with the following observations: 

I N I R O D U C T I O N 33 

They are all individuals more or less prominently but in every 
case legitimately identifiable either as Asian specialists of some kind 
or as leading figures in mass communications, government, politics, 
or the academic world. Anybody setting out to assemble such a 
panel would of course have a wide range of possible selection, but I 
would venture to say that a good half of these names would recur 
on any such list no matter by whom assembled. 

These selections were in many cases made precisely to ensure 
an adequate distribution or balance of known identifications, opin- 
ions, and views on relevant public issues. There might be mutual 
acquaintance, but by no means always mutual agreement. There 
was as a rule some measure of mutual respect, but by no means al- 
ways mutual admiration. In any case, the primary interest of this 
inquiry has been not in political opinions but in the underlying 
structure of ideas, images, reactions. These were areas seldom, if 
ever, purposefully explored before. Even with close friends of many 
years, the interview was almost always an experience of revelation. 

Insofar as "rapport" is an important element in interviewing, it 
is possible that personal acquaintance might affect it either way: 
in such an encounter speech might be freer or it might, in matters 
touching upon the individual's ego and his sight of himself in the 
other's eye, be more inhibited. I can only report that in my notes 
on the subject of candor, I find only a few cases where I noted some 
reservations, and these involve both people I knew and people to 
whom I was a complete stranger before the interview. 

Another possible source of bias could conceivably be the injec- 
tion of my own opinions, images, or prejudices into the interview 
situation. An interviewer, as is known, can often extract the answers 
he wants from a sufficiently pliable interviewee, or else the answers 
can be more indirectly influenced by what the interviewee thinks 
the interviewer wants to hear. Strenuously disciplined effort was 
made to exclude these risks from the present interviews. The non- 
leading character of the questioning was rigidly preserved. Inter- 
viewees of course sometimes would wind up answers by asking: 
"Don't you think so?" Or: "Do you agree?" Or simply: "What do 
you think?" These efforts to open a discussion were invariably turned 
aside. I tried I believe, successfully to remain an unreacting ques- 
tion-asker ? taking it as my task to accept all views or remarks with 
interest, to be surprised at least visibly by none, and certainly 
never to offer challenge, debate, or provocation. I can report, diffi- 


dently but with satisfaction, that a number of interviewees offered 
unsolicited testimonials on this account. One of them, himself a 
highly reputed investigator, told a private seminar that he had tried 
during our interview to figure out what the interviewer wanted or 
expected to hear but had been unable to do so. 

Naturally, I have my own views on most of the major political 
issues in Asian-American relations and have generally been able to 
put them into print in various places over the years. An examina- 
tion of these would show, again by the modes in which the inter- 
viewees have been grouped, that my political label would now 
probably be "left-of-center independent," and on the scale of iden- 
tifications included in the interview, I would probably turn up "lib- 
eral/' meaning only that I find more sense in Chester Bowies' views 
about Asia than in Senator Knowland's. 

The question of other kinds of bias is somewhat more compli- 
cated. My own experience enabled me to recognize many of the 
impressions volunteered by panelists. After all, I had met all the 
same kinds of people they had, read almost all the books they men- 
tioned, shared in many of the same kinds of experience to which 
they referred, and formed from them my own attitudes. These un- 
doubtedly shape the observations I make of the ideas and images 
that have emerged from the interviews. Like everyone else, I prefer 
to think of my attitudes as judgments and my reasons for them 
as reasonable. If I still have any undisciplined prejudices, they no 
doubt show up in the substance of this book whether I will it or 
not. I can only hope that if they do, they do not too grossly mar 
or obscure the pages on which they appear. 

This inquiry shaped itself out of the elements that have here been 
described. I have functioned primarily as a reporter who has bor- 
rowed some of the systematizing tools of social science while at the 
same time retaining a flexible appreciation of the term "objectivity" 
as it is applied to the study of human behavior. Social scientists 
have only just begun to examine the nature of intercultural experi- 
ence as it affects individuals. They have only begun to explore the 
links between culture and personality. They have barely glimpsed 
from the threshold the great complexities of this matter. It does not 
lend itself easily to predictable order or simple measurement. 
Whether he learned it long ago from the philosophers or the poets, 
or more recently from the nuclear physicists, the student of human 
behavior must know that the observer, his location, and his method 


are all undetachable parts of every observation, and that every ob- 
servation remains subject to the awareness that the aspect of knowl- 
edge is constantly changing. 

There is more than one kind of relevance for this study in the 
following passage from Robert Oppenheimer: 

To what appear to be the simplest questions, we will tend to give 
either no answer or an answer which will at first sight be reminiscent 
more of a strange catechism than of the straightforward affirmatives of 
physical science. If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the elec- 
tron remains the same, we must say "no"; if we ask whether the electron's 
position changes with time, we must say "no"; if we ask whether the 
electron is at rest, we must say "no"; if we ask whether it is in morion, 
we must say "no." The Buddha has given such answers when interro- 
gated as to the conditions of man's self after his death; but they are not 
familiar answers for the tradition of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century 
science. 5 

It is to be hoped that the study presented here offers not quite 
so strange a catechism. It reports a series of interlocking observa- 
tions affected in many ways by what this particular observer is sensi- 
tized to, the selections he makes, the frame in which he finds it 
possible to fit them. They form a compound, like Oppenheimer's 
physics, "of complementary views, each supplementing the other, 
neither telling the whole story." 

5 Science and the Common Understanding, New York, 1954, p. 40. 



IN 1942, four months after Pearl Harbor, an opinion poll found 
that 60 per cent of a national sample of Americans could not 
locate either China or India on an outline map of the world. By 
the war's end there were more Americans who could identify and 
approximately locate such places as Chungking, Manila, and Vladi- 
vostok. A smaller number could identify Okinawa, Osaka, Kyushu, 
and Java, although a majority, even of college-educated people, were 
still unable to locate Singapore, and it had not yet occurred to the 
pollsters in 1945 even to ask about place names in India. 1 

Vagueness about Asia has been until now the natural condition 
even of the educated American. There has been little in his total 
setting to equip him with much knowledge or information not to 
speak of affinities relating to Asia or things Asian. There is cer- 
tainly nothing to compare with the intricate web of bonds that tie 
him in so many different ways to Europe and things European- 
his near or remote origins, cultural roots, language, religion, history, 
picture of the world. America was born and grew up in the genera- 
tions of Europe's world paramountcy; it outgrew Europe's power 
without ever severing the European parental tie. This makes it diffi- 

1 Polls dated March 26, 1942 and May 2, 1945, in Public Opinion, 1935- 
1946, edited by Hadley Cantril, prepared by Mildred S trunk, Princeton, 1951, 
p. 265. 



cult for many to realize even now that the European age has ended, 
that the center of gravity in world affairs has shifted, that Western 
Europe has to be seen once more as a peninsula at one end of the 
great Eurasian continent. 

On the other hand, consider a paradox: the history of America's 
emergence as a major world power has been peculiarly linked to 
Asia and its rise as a primary setting for decisive world events. The 
first foreign war fought by this country in its maturing period made 
it a Pacific power. The first major stroke of American diplomacy 
with a prime impact on world affairs outside this hemisphere was 
the Open Door initiative of 1899 relating to China. It was an Amer- 
ican act that "opened" Japan to the world a century ago, helping to 
initiate the history that moved on to Tsushima Straits and to Ports- 
mouth in 1905, to Washington in 1921, to Mukden in 1931, and to 
Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was the explosion of the struggle for the 
Pacific rather than any culminating event in Europe which finally 
pushed this country into the Second World War. In the new and 
even greater power conflicts ushered in by the end of that war, Asia 
quickly became a major theater, scene of some of the most fateful 
outcomes and decisions of our current history. America could not 
conceivably have gone to war over Poland in 1939. It did not even 
go to war when Britain stood so mortally threatened in 1940. But 
it did go to war in Korea in 1950 and has almost gone to war more 
than once since in the Formosa Strait. 

In a manner unthinkable even to most thoughtful Americans 
hardly more than a dozen years ago, China has become a major fac- 
tor in domestic American politics, seating and unseating men in high 
office, building or wrecking public reputations, filling the press and 
the air for months and years on end with concern, alarm, controversy, 
hand-wringing, recrimination, and contumely. China has become a 
central and often even a dominating factor in the host of decisions 
forced on the United States by its new place in world affairs; it 
affects in some degree our relations with every other nation, friend 
or foe, on the globe. 

China, it can be said, has long been with us. But consider the 
wholly "new" fact of India. India has had almost no existence at 
all either in our history or in the minds of most living Americans 
up to a few years ago. If the marks made upon us in the past by 
China are visible scratches, those made by India are faint lines 
which have to be searched out to be seen. Yet in the ten years since 


the emergence of the independent state of India, it has forced itself 
upon our awareness, required us to deal with it as a major factor 
in world affairs, both for its own sake and for its relation to China 
in the unfolding complex of the new intercontinental shape of 
things. Smaller in size and weight but scarcely less insistent in their 
claim upon our attention, the other "new" countries of Asia Pak- 
istan, Ceylon, Malaya, Indonesia, Burma, Viet Nam, the Philip- 
pinesalso seek their places in the great new rearrangements with 
which we must somehow cope. 

Despite all this, despite the important role of Japan and China 
in our history before 1941, and of China and India since then, all 
but a very few Americans including most of those in high places- 
have continued through almost all this time to view the rest of the 
world as though all of it lay across and beyond the Atlantic. Captive 
to their own cultural bonds and to the picture of the world conveyed 
by history as they learned it and by the old maps still so largely 
used in our schools, they have kept their eyes focused on the closer 
and more recognizable landscapes of Europe, They have seen Asia 
only beyond it dimly, as "far" and "east" when, just over the north- 
westerly curve of the globe, much nearer than they realized, the 
countries and peoples of whom Americans knew so little were shap- 
ing so much of the American destiny. Even now we still refer to 
parts of Asia as "Far" and "Near" and "Middle" as if the most 
important thing about them were still their distance looking east- 
ward from London. In fact this "east" is in many crucial ways still 
too "far" to have any real place in our national consciousness. 
Hardly anything marks more clearly the limits of the American 
world outlook than the official and popular acceptance of the term 
"East-West struggle" to describe our conflict with Russia. It sug- 
gests how unthinkingly we can still accept the notion that "East" 
means Eastern Europe, how truly dim and undefined the farther 
"East" really is, how unblinkingly we give currency to a term that 
cuts us off psychologically from that "East" and allows Russia so 
much more easily to identify with it. There is virtually no room 
in our minds for a sense of the meaning the term "East-West strug- 
gle" has or can be made to have for the peoples of Asia. An Amer- 
ican Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, betrayed the limits of 
his grasp of reality and of what he includes in "the world" when he 
insisted, in February, 1956, that "dl the world regards [Goa] as a 
Portuguese province." 



Yet not even all this implies a total lack of awareness. Knowledge 
is a highly relative matter; our minds are occupied by much more 
than orderly thought. It is true that most of us "learn" very little 
about Asia; yet it is also true that we "learn" a great deal. It be- 
came a familiar experience during these interviews to hear an in- 
dividual describe Asia as a cipher in his thinking and then to spend 
an hour or more uncovering, often to his astonishment, the surpris- 
ingly varied array of things he actually carried somewhere in his 
head on the subject. There are in fact all sorts of scratches on Amer- 
ican minds about Asia associations, images, notions, ideas, infor- 
mation, attitudes, gleaned and acquired in fragments over time from 
childhood or under the more recent pressures of contemporary 
events. To our appreciations of these events w r e bring, many of us, 
the wispy products of the classroom, church, Sunday school, remem- 
bered bits out of storybooks and magazines, cartoons and photo- 
graphs, motion pictures, newspaper headlines and columns, 
impressions gleaned from friends or acquaintances. Many of these 
deposits left in American minds have in common a quality of re- 
moteness, of the exotic, the bizarre, the strange and unfamiliar, and 
until the day before yesterday a lack of connection with the 
more visibly important affairs of life. There is, of course, no obvious 
logic or consistency or order in the way these semiectoplasirnc no- 
tions inhabit comers of our thinking. They recur in different indi- 
viduals spasmodically and in dismembered pieces. They are sparse 
in substance yet capable of long life and prodigious multiplication. 
These, like a set of hieroglyphics or cave drawings, became the start- 
ing points of our inquiry. 

When you think of Asia, what comes to your mind? 

To this first question in the interview, the first response was often 
blank surprise. This sometimes truly mirrored an initial blankness. 
Nothing or almost nothing moved clearly and plainly in the mind's 
foreground; the summons had to reach some remoter mental cranny 
to arouse an answer. Sometimes it was not blankness but the bewil- 
derment of having to choose suddenly from a clutter of ready re- 
plies. One way or the other, the differences in number and kinds of 
answers provided their own first measure of the differences in all 
the people to whom the question was put: those to whom Asia 
was big and complex and far and those to whom it was big and 
complex and near; those who saw it in a broad blur and those who 

In the familiar old Mercator 'world centered on Greenwich, the 

"East" -was far and vast . . . 

while in this new American arrangement, centered on Peoria, its 
shapes and directions are confusingly different 


saw it in some particular, a continent, region, country, or place, 
people in an undistinguishable mass or individuals with faces and 
names; those for whom it evoked a misty glamor or else a grim 
tableau; those who thought of past or present history, societies, poli- 
tics, problems; and those who thought of themselves in some per- 
sonal relation to it all. 

From by far the largest number (139), a first response to a geo- 
graphic term, Asia, was a geographic image, starting with the map 
itself, all the great expanse of it carried in outline on some mental 
screen first exposed in the early grades of school. The location of 
Asia on this world map which so many of us carry around in our 
heads is a matter of some importance. A study of geography texts 
being used in American elementary and secondary schools as late as 
1944 showed that all, without a single exception, contained world 
maps which placed Europeor more specifically, England at the 
center, along the Greenwich meridian. This made it necessary to 
bisect the Pacific longitudinally just west of the tip of Alaska, with 
all of Asia thus placed to the east of Europe. 2 It is from this picture 
of the world that we derive the persistently surviving term "the Far 

In the last ten years or so, American map makers have begun to 
take a somewhat more patriotic view of the world; instead of Europe, 
they place North America in the world's center. The effect besides 
moving the center of the world from Greenwich to the longitude of 
Peoria, Illinois is to leave Japan and a chunk of eastern Asia vis- 
ible on the west, with the remainder of a truncated Asia reappear- 
ing far, again, in the east. The latest Rand McNally Cosmopolitan 
Atlas (1953), for example, still for most purposes uses the older 
arrangement with a divided Pacific. But it also shows a map on which 
the dividing line is drawn through Soviet Central Asia, along the 
borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and past the city of Bombay on 
India's west coast. The literal-minded schoolboy, shown this map 
and asked to define the "Far East," would look carefully and reply: 
"Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan." He might then, quite logically, 
call India the "Far West," China would then become, no doubt, 
the "Middle West" and Japan the "Near West." In the interests of 
simple consistency one could not stop here with adapting the old 

2 Treatment of Asia in American Textbooks, Committee on Asiatic Studies, 
American Council on Education, and American Council, Institute of Pacific Re- 
lations, New York, 1946, p. 50. 


terms to the new arrangement. If Iran and Pakistan become the 
"Far East," then surely Athens and Rome must fall within our new 
"Middle East," and this, of course, places the "Near East" smack 
down on the Place de la Concorde and Piccadilly Circus. There is 
plainly no end to the possible absurdities of map making and geo- 
graphic terminology. 

Air-age maps centered on the North Pole and showing the con- 
tinents in somewhat more realistic relationships are increasingly 
available, but it is doubtful whether any but a few intercontinental 
airmen as yet carry the air-age image of the world in their heads. 
It is certain that for anyone over ten years old today, the mental 
picture of the world map is still the good old Mercator, with the 
Pacific cut in two, as though it ended indeed on the sharp edge of 
nothingness, and with the vast expanse of Asia way over there where 
it belongs, in the far, far east. 

It is precisely this vast expanse which emerges as the next most 
powerful image, a first, single, and overwhelming sense of 

size, great size, huge, vast size, a huge land mass, the continent, the 
great vast continent . . . 

All the vagueness of the way in which we are schooled about the 
geography of Asia, or all the accidental varieties of reading, travel, 
or personal experience, can then find reflection in the way this out- 
line is filled in or in some way particularized. The boundaries of 
Asia, for example, are visualized not as a matter of precise fact but 
of individual fancy or fantasy, certainly of individual preoccupa- 
tion, focus, or circumstance. Thus the mind's eye might go in one 
direction, taking in "Asia" from Japan east or from Pakistan west, 
or the mind's light might settle on some single large segment grown 
more familiar through some accident of special knowledge or inter- 

I think of China and Southeast Asia rather than of India; see from In- 
dochina down to Singapore, around the Malay Peninsula; Southeast 
Asia and India stand clear in the foreground while central and eastern 
Asia fade off beyond; think of eastern Asia; see Siberia looming large; 
see the coastline clearly but don't get very far inland. . . . 

The focus begins to fall on 

the islands, the curve of the coast, the different parts, the great sub- 
divisions . . . 


and finally comes to rest on particular countries, either on China 
alone (24) or India alone (15), or, in the large total of 93 cases, 
on China and India both. 

As we move on with some of our panelists into these continental 
areas, countries, and places, they quickly cease to be empty spaces 
on an outline map of land and water. Features of the landscape 
begin to appear: 

the Himalayas; low-lying Indian villages, towns, and cities; wide dusty 
plains of North China; the flooded valley of the Yangtze . . . 

and the most visible of the great architectural monuments: 

the Taj Mahal at Agra; the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City in 
Peking; the Great Wall of China. . . . 

The differences between the images seen through the frames of the 
imagination and those of the memory, the parting of romance from 
reality, begin to show up in clusters like these: 

so far away and so different; all the mystery, all the picturesque ele- 
ments; a sense of exotic adventure; teak, ivory, elephants, incense, pea- 
cocks, sarongs, postage stamps, spices, cymbal's, gongs, camel trains . . . 

compared to: 

open spaces, mountains, river valleys, villages, primitive farming, bright 
hot deserts, wet paddy fields, smells. . . . 

These scenes begin to fill, with people and pictures, with figures and 
figments, with fragments of history, personal and political, dim, early, 
late, and current, and with impressions, prejudices, and opinions. 
Brought all together, these compose the total stuff of which this 
study is made, seen here first as through a kaleidoscope. 

The places of Asia are first of all and overwhelmingly filled with 

a lot of people, masses, teeming masses; a plague of people, of one and 
a half billion people, vast numbers, hordes of people, the largest popu- 
lations in the world. . . . 

This is, moreover, for almost everybody, an image of 

a barefoot, hungry, starving mass; masses of families eking out a bare 
existence in villages, in overcrowded cities, beggars, peasants, coolies, 
suffering all the hardships of an extremely low standard of living. . . . 

"ASIA" 45 

This overwhelming image of an undifferentiated crush of humanity 
was summoned up instantly by a large number (So) and for many 
this is the "Asia" that carries with it a dread blur of mystery and 
fearfulness, associated with vast numbers, with barbarism, and with 
disease. 3 In many other minds, however, there is also a strong sense 
of great diversity, of many kinds, nations, classes, castes. For some 
it becomes peculiarly important to mention that people in Asia are 

dark people, brown people, people of dark skin, yellow to brown; the 
whole Oriental race, dark-skinned people in tremendous numbers 
spread out everywhere, with deep-seated prejudices against whites. . . . 

For other, larger numbers of individuals certain other distinctions 
are important: 

they are heathen, people with other gods, different religious concepts, 
religiosity; cultural, religious, language differences; customs strange to 
an American; the idea of the Eastern soul, mind, mentality, morals, 
different from ours; they are difficult to understand; they are differ- 
ent. . . . 

The more remote the association evoked by "Asia," the more likely 
it is to be an image that is broad, or vague, or at least static. When 
we come to the association of "Asia" with oneself, the blurred large- 
ness of it is more often reduced to some single but clear and mean- 
ingful personal experience or point of contact brought plainly into 
view. It could still be a distant memory, something out of childhood, 

the Chinese students who used to come to my father's house; the 
souvenirs my uncle brought back; the missionaries who visited my 
home . . . 

or the quick unshuttering of 

my own years in China; in India; my first view of Asia from a Liberty 
ship going up the Hooghly River into Calcutta . . . 

or emotional reactions in endlessly different combinations: 

3 On the subject of "Asian flu/' the Boston Globe, Sept 7, 1957, reported: 
'To relieve worried Bay Staters, the state director [of health] stressed that there 
is nothing serious or mysterious about the disease because the descriptive term 
'Asian 7 is attached to it. That name was applied simply because the first outbreak 
occurred in the Far East, explained Dr. Feemster. 'I would have preferred calling 
it 'Boston flu' because no one is ever afraid of anything coining from Boston.' " 


a warm feeling, of friendships and personal associations; a shrinking 
feeling; my sense of satisfaction over a job well done; my sense of frus- 
tration; I liked India, felt happy and at home there; India repelled me, 
depressed me; warm, kindly, friendly people; sem&boriginal humanity; 
spiritual people; superstitious people; my affection for the Chinese, 
loved it in China, felt at home there from the start; China a great mys- 
tery to me; China never intrigued me, have no emotions about it; I 
like the surface unemotionalism; I never knew where I was with the 
Chinese; what is it about Asia that gets under the skin of Westerners 
exposed to it? 

Even from these first few glimpses of the range and variety of 
responses, it may be possible to feel the range and variety of reac- 
tions to difference. For some it has been a romantic attraction ("all 
the picturesque mystery, exotic adventure") or repulsion ("a shrink- 
ing feeling"). For some it evokes a positive response ("warm feel- 
ing of friendships") and for others quite the opposite ("India 
repelled me"). It can imply or plainly become a feeling of contemp- 
tuous hostility ("heathen") or fearful hostility ("a plague of peo- 
ple") or a more complicated combination of both ("dark-skinned 
people in tremendous numbers spread out everywhere"). All of 
these and many others will appear and reappear many times as the 
inquiry unfolds. They will vary widely in form, acuteness, and effect, 
developing out of different measures and combinations of particular 
personality traits, outlook, knowledge, or an aggravated condition of 

We do not expect to be able to say much about the place of 
individual personality traits in these patterns of response. We shall 
try to deal with the more graspable elements of outlook, knowledge, 
and ignorance. But even these, it seems necessary to note here, are 
embraced by the less tangible issue of personality. For some indi- 
viduals the common denominator of simple humanity is apparently 
enough to enable them to sustain and absorb the shock of almost 
every kind of human encounter and experience. Most others seem 
to need the support of some familiarity, some knowledge, some basis 
for rationalizing the differences they discover. On the other hand, 
we have observed that empathy is not always necessarily related to 
knowledge. There are members of our present panel who have lived 
whole lifetimes in Asia and still react to the sense of difference with 
something close to acute hostility. There are others who have never 
been nearer to Asia than a Chinese restaurant in their home city 

"ASIA" 47 

whose reaction to difference remains mild, curious, friendly, or at 
least open-pored. We shall eventually have to wrestle as best we can 
with the reasons why any two of our people have reacted differently 
to the same thing. But meanwhile let the reader never be wholly 
unaware of the specter of personality that hovers over these pages. 

Whatever their distinctive individual traits may be, a great many 
of our panelists share, from way back, an aggravated condition of 
ignorance about Asia. This is the normal condition. Any greater 
state of knowledge is unusual and derives invariably from special 
individual circumstances. 

Consider first what most of the members of this panel learned 
about Asia in school. No one is likely to claim that the American 
school child emerges from the classroom with an adequate picture 
of the world he lives in, even of his own nearby world, or of its his- 
tory. But ignorance is a highly relative matter. There is some quality 
of knowledge and identification even in the simplest awareness 
of England-Magna Carta-Shakespeare-Drake-Queen Elizabeth-King 
George-i776, or of France-Lafayette-Revolution, or Greece-gods, 
Rome-Caesar. But when we come to consider Asia, the identifica- 
tions are either of quite a different order or nonexistent. These are 
countries, cultures, and peoples that lie almost entirely outside the 
world that was discovered to most of our interviewees in their time 
at school. Later accidents of bent, circumstance, experience, and 
education turned some of them into individuals with some spe- 
cialized knowledge of Asia. But for all except a rare few, the world 
as they learned of it at school included Asia only marginally or not 
at all. Their scattered recall of classroom gleanings conforms almost 
exactly in all important particulars to the picture we have of the 
way Asia figured in American schooling from a number of studies 
of American textbooks commonly in use in American schools during 
the last fifty years. 

In the study Treatment of Asia in American Textbooks, it was 
found that in 1944 an average of about 7 per cent of all the space 
in elementary and secondary school geography texts was 'devoted to 
Asia. Of this the bulk was usually given over to China, with some- 
thing about pigtails, bound feet, rice, invention of gunpowder, and 
a picture of a primitive irrigation wheel in a rice field or of the 
Great Wall, a pagoda, or a shrine. With the few paragraphs nor- 
mally devoted to India, the photograph would normally be of the 
Taj Mahal, or of a scene on the Ganges, usually showing a great 


mass of pilgrims. An average of 9 per cent was given over to Asia 
in the world history textbooks, and this space normally mentioned 
the travels of Marco Polo, Genghiz Khan and the Mongol invasions, 
the first Western contacts in the age of exploration, and the re- 
maining bulk to Western trade, colonization, evangelization, and 
wars in Asia. Without exception, the "history of civilization" is pre- 
sented exclusively in terms of the civilization that arose in the eastern 
Mediterranean, took form in Greece, and passed on via Rome to 
Europe. "Not more than one per cent of the content of any of 
them," the authors note, "is devoted to the rise and current devel- 
opment of the national cultures of this part of the world where half 
the world's population lives." 4 In an earlier survey covering 26 world 
history books and 18 geography texts published between 1902 and 
1917 the schoolgoing years of many of our older interviewees Dr. 
Timothy Lew found from i to 1.5 per cent of the contents devoted 
to China, with many omitting it altogether. In 1939? Dr. Alfred 
Church found a total of 3 per cent in world history texts devoted 
to China and Japan. A more recent study (1954) by an Indian 
scholar found 1.5 per cent of the space in 28 world history texts 
published between 1921 and 1947 devoted to India, and 2.5 to 3 
per cent in 27 geography texts. 5 The quality of these classroom ex- 
posures was generally commensurate with quantity. Most of the 
principal details mentioned in these studies are faithfully reproduced 
in the school memories of our panel Some examples: 

China had an ancient culture, gunpowder, astronomy; Confucius; 
Marco Polo; Genghiz Khan and the Mongol hordes; Vasco da Gama, 
Magellan; Chinese with pigtails; China trade, Perry, silk, spices, Co- 
lumbus, fabulous India, Chinese silks, semitropical overcrowded British 
India; snakes and poverty in India; Hastings, Clive, Black Hole of 
Calcutta; China a place on the map, 400 million people, inverted dish- 
pans for hats, rickshas, ate rice with chopsticks .... 

And from high school hours devoted to current events some men- 
tions of 

* Treatment of Asia. . . . , pp. 12, 38-39, 43. 

5 Cf. Timothy T. Lew, China, in American School Textbooks, special supple- 
ment to Social and Political Science Review 7 Peking, July 1923; Alfred M. 
Church, The Study of China and Japan in American Secondary Schools,, unpub- 
lished Dr. Ed. thesis, Harvard, 1939; Shyama Deodhar, The Treatment of India 
in American Social Studies Textbooks, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of 
Michigan, 1954. 

"ASIA" 49 

Sun Yat-sen, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-shek; Chinese revolutions, milita- 
rists, wars, famines; Indians held down by their religious practices. . . . 

At the college and university level, we have no curriculum studies 
to use as a basis for comparison, but to judge from our panelists' 
recall, the range here is only a little wider and hardly any less scat- 
tered, accidental, and incidental. In history, Asia would appear 
largely as the scene of certain episodes in modern Western history. 
Here again a major stress on China: 

the Opium wars, John Hay and the Open Door, Boxer Rebellion, 1911 
Revolution, Sun Yat-sen . . . 

and on Japan; 

Perry, the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Russo-Japanese war, Portsmouth 
Conference, the Shantung problem at Versailles . . . 

and a much rarer splatter of references to India as an incident in 
the spread of British empire. 

In a very few instances, some core of some more substantial knowl- 
edge would turn up among these undergraduate gleanings, and these 
would almost invariably turn out to be the result of exposure to the 
varying Asian interests of some particular Asian scholar: Frederick 
Wells Williams at Yale, Paul Reinsch at Wisconsin, Harold Quig- 
ley at Minnesota, Kenneth Latourette at Denison University. Asia 
tended to figure a bit more largely, though still marginally, in the 
studies of those interested in diplomatic history. It was rare to come 
upon Asia at all in the study of philosophy, which still starts for 
most people with the Greeks, moves westward in space and up 
through the classical European tradition in time. It would be rather 
in courses on comparative religions, mentioned by 25 of our panel, 
that the first discoveries would occur of Chinese and Indian thought. 
Here the names of Confucius, Lao Tze, Buddha, the concepts of 
Hinduism, come to light, well or barely remembered as the case 
might be. For a small number of individuals, these first discoveries 
were not enough. As their bents took them on to become mission- 
aries, journalists, scholars, businessmen, government officials, and as 
circumstances took them by accident or by choice to Asia, they 
broadened or deepened, or at least acquired more knowledge. But 
for the great majority, Asia remained as distant and dreamlike as 
these bits and pieces retrieved from among their school-day mem- 
ories. For a great many, even these faint scratches had long since 


faded; 50 interviewees said they could remember nothing specific at 
all that had ever touched on Asia at any time in all the years of their 

But the classroom is only one place where young minds get 
scratched. Impressions sharp enough to be retained somewhere in 
the mind for a lifetime are acquired elsewhere. 6 We shall come upon 
such impressions, vividly or vaguely remembered, out of the pages 
of the National Geographic, which used to come into so many homes 
and appears in our interviews as a prime source for the first sight of 
pictures of strange religious rites and processions, Hindu holy men, 
Chinese river scenes; or the Book of Knowledge, to which some were 
able to trace their first encounters with Asian history, ancient 
Chinese inventiveness, Genghiz Khan and the Mongol hordes, the 
values and moods of Chinese and Indian folk tales. We shall also 
encounter before long the lasting traces of the reading of later years, 
over the wide range from Bret Harte to Sax Rohmer to Pearl Buck 
and the not-so-wide range from Kipling to Katherine Mayo, and of 
the images caught from the movie screens over the years, and from 
cartoon strips like "Terry and the Pirates/ 7 There are also the sharp 
images of the Chinese who are part of American community life 
itself: dozens of people quickly remembered the laundryman in the 
many home towns, the colorful or fearsome mythologies of the 
Chinatowns in so many American cities, the restaurant keepers 
and waiters who belong with the familiar and pleasurable experi- 
ence of eating Chinese food. Much less often and of quite a different 
order would be encounters with Asian fellow students at college, 
mostly Chinese but sometimes Japanese or Indian. But perhaps the 
most vivid and salient of all early sources was the discovery of Asia 
through contact with missionaries or talk about mission work at 
Sunday school and in church. This missionary impact will have a 
large place among the particulars to come; let it be noted here 
simply that of 181 interviewees, 123 had some recollection about 
missionaries, that of these 48 associated the contact with India and 
75 with China, that most of these memories were attached to some 

6 Alfred Church cites a study of 289 high school seniors on the West Coast 
in 1923, in which 55 to 71 per cent mentioned newspapers, conversations, and 
other sources, and only 1 3 per cent mentioned the school as a source of informa- 
tion about the Japanese. He also cites a later report from Chicago in which school 
children said they had learned about China from "the funny paper, the radio, 
and the movies " Op. cit., pp. 11, 80. 


kind of particular images, notions, or feelings about the Chinese 
and the Indians, deposits left in young minds which had borne in- 
terest of a kind over the many years. 

Besides school home, reading, the movies, church, there was, 
finally, the discovery of Asia through the impact of events as re- 
ported in the press, in the newsreels, and by radio. Some awareness, 
impressions, and knowledge of these events accumulated over time. 
But the interviewees were not asked simply what events they remem- 
bered; they were asked what events had first forced Asia upon their 
attention as something important, something they had to be con- 
cerned with as citizens and ? perhaps, even as individuals whose own 
lives might be affected. 

Now recall of events is obviously relative in the first place, and 
in high degree to the simple matter of age. Several individuals at 
one end of our age scale mentioned the Spanish-American War, and 
the Russo-Japanese War, while three of our youngest panelists said 
they had not become seriously aware of Asia until the Korean War 
broke upon them. It may help to keep the age factor in place if we 
note here that about three-fourths of the interviewees were already 
twenty or older at the time Japan's attacks began on China in 1931. 
It is much less easy to correct mentally for the deforming effect 
of refraction: today's heightened awareness, say, of China, can give 
new shape to recollections of the way in which news from China 
was received twenty or twenty-five years ago. With these qualifica- 
tions in mind, consider these answers from 135 interviewees, which 
grouped themselves as follows: 

Events prior to 1930 relating to China ... 21 
Events prior to 1930 relating to India ... 4 
Events prior to 1930 relating to other 7 . . 9 

TOTAL ^ . . 34 

Manchurian invasion, Sino-Japanese War (1931-37) . . 48 

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) 41 

Indian independence (1947) i 

Chinese Communist victory (1949) 2 

Korean War (195053) 3 

"After 1951" i 

Indochina War (1954) i 

"Never" 3 

"Can't recall" i 

TOTAL 135 

7 Spanish-American War, Russo-Japanese War, Philippines insurrection, Ver- 
sailles Conference, London Naval Conference, etc. 


A first relevant fact to be noted is that here again, as in all the 
gleanings from school, home, and other sources, the brightest light 
falls on China, In this case there are 71 individuals remembering 
events relating to China and only 5 whose recall had to do with 

A second noticeable fact is that of the 34 who said they had felt 
the impact of Asian events before 1930, no fewer than 14 were jour- 
nalists. Only 5 of these were men who had reported events from 
Asia itself, 4 in China and i in the Philippines. The other 9 had 
felt Asian tremors at various other points around the globe, at Ver- 
sailles in 1919, Moscow in the 1920*5, London, Geneva, Washing- 
ton, New York. They were all individuals whose primary interest 
had become international politics, and all were able to specify their 
recollections in fairly precise detail, e.g., the crisis over Shantung 
at Versailles, the interplay at the Washington Conference in 1921- 
22, the effect of the Chinese revolutionary upheavals of 1924-27. 
This precision characterized only 3 among the 5 government of- 
ficials included in the group. It was present in much less marked 
degree among the 6 missionaries, 4 scholars, 4 businessmen, and i 
publicist who made up the remainder. 

These are all, however, persons with specialized interests and ex- 
perience. We do not begin to meet other sorts of people in signifi- 
cant numbers until we come to the largest single cluster of 48 who 
located their first serious awareness of events in Asia in the period 
of Japan's invasions of China, beginning in Manchuria in Septem- 
ber, 1931. Here the specialists join with larger numbers of others 
spread among all the categories, occupations, spheres of life. One 
reason for this is, again, the matter of age. By the i93o's a great 
many more of our panelists were reading the newspapers. It is also 
true that in those years events in China acquired, from time to time, 
a spectacularly high degree of visibility. No matter how peripheral 
or incidental their interest in Asia might be, serious people interested 
enough in affairs to read the press with earnest care could hardly 
help being reached by the news, passions, controversies, and fears 
aroused by Japan's invasions of China, especially after 1937 when 
the Chinese government finally began to offer resistance and the 
pattern of armed Japanese encroachment and successive Chinese sur- 
renders became a war. For the remaining large group of 41 panelists, 
a new awareness of Asia did not develop until this war became also 
an American war; their acknowledged marking-off point was the at- 

" 53 

tack on Pearl Harbor. There were only a few later comers to the 
realization of Asia's new importance: a women's organization execu- 
tive who said it did not dawn upon her until the Communists took 
power in China; the youths who discovered it in the Korean War; 
a missionary thrust suddenly in 1951 from another part of the world 
into an Asian job; a senator's aide who had never personally come 
to grips with any Asian issue until the Indochina war crisis of 1954. 
But sooner or later to all, in the years since Pearl Harbor, Asia has 
come to assume wholly new proportions and significance. For some 
this meant not only the sudden discovery of the hitherto unknown 
half of the world, but being plunged personally into its midst, into 
new jobs in strange settings, changing their careers, their preoccu- 
pations, their picture of themselves and of their world. For the rest, 
the swift rush of events in this decade has brought with it con- 
fusion, bewilderment, and anger, new and inescapable problems and 
dangers in a vast part of the globe they could no longer ignore, as 
much as they might wish to do so. There are in the present panel 
at least 9 individuals who might be described as still isolationist in 
impulse, outlook, background, or surviving views. Some of them 
might dearly like to see this country able to ignore Asia, but not one 
of them thought or said it could afford to do so. 

There was certainly no simple isolationist explanation for the three 
unreconstructed individuals in the panel who said in oddly apolo- 
getic, half-joking, or defensively abashed tones that no event in 
Asia had even yet persuaded them of its commanding importance. 
They were not really denying the Asian impact; they were trying 
to evade or resist it. One was a college president for whom the fate 
of humanity is still exclusively the fate of Western humanity; one 
was an engineer who had never accepted the seriousness of politics; 
the last was a businessman who was expressing a deeply personal re- 
jection of the non-European world, who really wished everything 
beyond his own little universe would fade away and leave him alone. 
None of these could really modify the unanimous acceptance of the 
obvious fact that Asia was in all our lives now to stay. It no longer 
leaves scratches on our minds, but deep gashes. 

These are deeply wounding, not only with the pain of sudden 
blows, but sometimes with the anguish of cleavage, the near-severing 
of vital bonds that link a man to his world. The cry can be one of 
dogged anger: 


I know Asia has acquired a position more important than I have 
cared to admit, because I am so profoundly European at the bottom 
of my soul. I don't want to admit that it might acquire top priority. I 
recognize the trend. I know it cannot be stopped. I have tried to live 
with it. I know these changes are irreparable. But I also think them 
undesirable. I cannot applaud the setting of the sun. I can only take it 
as a fact of life that has to be faced somehow. 

It can also be dogged desperation: 

About this whole question of Western relations with Asia, I keep 
remembering a phrase of R. H. Tawney's in which he said the Western 
world was heading for a situation in which it would be like "an island 
off Kamchatka, with the rest of the world indifferent or hostile to us/' 
If you want to know how I really feel about it, I feel as though I have 
been shipwrecked in the middle of the Atlantic, no life rafts, no 
radio, nobody around, nothing to hang onto, but still feebly trying to 
stroke through the water to survive. I try to understand this, but don't 
feel there is much I can do. I have too much sense to think that in a 
short trip to Asia I could learn enough to fill in all the gaps in my 
knowledge, and I cannot undertake a long one. But every time I sit 
down to write anything that pertains to Asia, I am haunted by the 
knowledge of my ignorance of it. 

This Asia, its existence and importance universally conceded, 
bristles with problems, tasks, controversies and, above all, with 
dangers. In this setting the first and controlling images are still 

poverty, misery, disease, hunger, famine, ignorance , . . 

multiplied by the unimaginably huge numbers of people caught in 
this condition. But these people are now in motion in 

ferment, unrest, throwing off old ways and groping for new ones; im- 
pact of the idea of a better standard of living; the struggle between 
communism and democracy; a renascent Asia. . . . 

The problems pinpointed recur: 

overcoming backwardness; economic development problems; problems 
of food, health, irrigation, education; the problem of too many 
people. . . . 

Some see these as huge but challenging and graspable problems for 
Asia. Others see them as 

insoluble, fantastic, almost insuperable problems, difficulties; an im- 
mensity of tasks amid confusion, disorder, chaos, weakness. . . . 

"ASIA" 55 

Translated into terms of American needs and tasks, they become 

overwhelming United States policy problems, troubles, difficulties; the 
problem of India, irritation with Nehru and Menon; of Communist 
China, the emergence of China as a major power; the balance of 
power; facing Asians whom we took for granted but who now drive for 
self-determination with rising expectations; facing so many people de- 
tached from the democratic world, dark peoples determined to assert 
themselves; the challenge is to see how we can help, what we can do to 
meet the dangers of a Chinese-Russian alliance. . . . 

This sense of worried urgency dominates much of this new aware- 
ness of Asia as a problem for the United States. Asia has become 
important above all because it has become dangerous. For most of 
those to whom Asia is newly discovered, a strong feeling of uneasi- 
ness, apprehension, or imminent peril overhangs all the immensity, 
complexity, unintelligibility of it. Others of longer experience feel 
much the same emotions. For them too, with only a few exceptions, 
this is a change, for however they viewed the Asia they knew in the 
past, they rarely saw it, even potentially, as threatening to the 
United States. There were of course the old and prescient predic- 
tions about what would happen when the sleeping giant awoke. 
But these always had the quality of biblical prophecy; nobody would 
really believe until it happened. Here again only a very few mav- 
erick diplomats and journalists saw this shadow when it was a 
streak in the sky. Now it is optimism that has to be stubborn. 

In the present panel, 129 individuals said they feel that Asia has 
become a source of future danger for the United States; only 16 
that it has not. There were 83 who felt that Asia has become a 
greater source of danger than Europe (i.e., the Russian threat to 
Europe), 22 who thought that both Asia and Europe presented dan- 
gerous aspects for this country; and only 2 who saw no danger, 
especially military danger, in either place. These strong apprehen- 
sions were felt by majorities of all kinds of people represented on the 
panel. They were shared in ascending proportions by three-fifths of 
our Asian specialists, two-thirds of those having some secondary 
involvement in Asian affairs, and three-fourths of those with inci- 
dental or no direct involvement of any kind. They were expressed 
with a great variety of accents and stresses. 

There was a first group (of 25) whose primary focus is inward, 
on the United States itself, its role in these affairs, its measure of 


responsibility for the dangers perceived, and the consequences it may 
suffer either from its own acts or from the pressures that fold in 
upon it from the outside. Some of these individuals were fearful of 
bad judgment by American leaders faced with critical decisions: 

there is terrible danger if we mishandle the Indochina situation and 
get into hostilities; the danger (over Quemoy and Matsu) is a U.S.- 
made danger, what stupidity!; danger can come quickly through iD- 
conceived action leading to a war that can't be localized, that might 
spark a big war; we might get embroiled over Formosa and if we do get 
into war, we will carry a heavy responsibility for it. ... 

Some made this particular responsibility explicit: 

the danger is that our reaction to events, rather than Asian aggression, 
might lead us into war; the U.S. might feel obliged to fight; the threat- 
ening situation might lead to a war initiated by us; the war danger de- 
pends on us. ... 

More frequently, the worry was not over decisions made in the face 
of crisis situations but over failure in the long run to be wise enough 
to cope: 

we can stumble very badly through lack of adjustment to areas, peo- 
ples, problems; it may not necessarily be a great evil sweeping up out 
of Asia, but our own failure to understand and to act wisely that may 
isolate us from the world and lead us into war; we can behave so badly 
that over time we can find ourselves without any friends at all in Asia 
and thereby run into all sorts of dangers, including war. . , . 

Finally there were other inward-lookers still more probingly sober: 

war threats may strengthen reactionary and fascist trends in the United 
States; it may prove difficult for the U.S. to survive in the framework of 
its present institutions; the gap between Asian aspirations and capa- 
bilities may lead to totalitarianism there, making us a garrisoned demo- 
cratic island off totalitarian Asia and forcing us to become less and less 
democratic. . . . 

A second larger group (42) tended to accent the long-run char- 
acter of the danger, to see events in the framework of a prolonged, 
painful, and difficult effort to attain or maintain a favorable balance 
of power: 

I see extensive political, economic conflict over the long range; Asia as 
a wide arena for cold-war type hostilities as distinct from any military 


threat to us directly; Asia not likely to have in next io 7 25, 50, 100 
years an independent resource base capable of making it a direct men- 
ace to the United States; see it as a menace as an instrument of Russian 
policy, a tool of the Russians, dangerous only in combination with 
Russian power; if those vast untapped material and human resources 
develop on terms hostile to us, they will be a real danger, but that is 
many years off; it will be a long time, 10 years, another generation, 
before we are ever attacked by Asia, but the balance of power may 
change meanwhile; they will seek to eliminate U.S. influence from Asia, 
but a direct military danger to us seems less likely; we will experience 
more of what we are experiencing now, turmoil, uncertainty; will have 
trouble, friction, difficulty, hostility, but they won't have the power to 
attack us; the danger is in Chinese-Russian leadership of world revolu- 
tion, spreading social and political unrest in Asia, the Arab states, 
Africa; danger lies in economic desperation, with Asians becoming 

AUSUST. 1937 - JAP 


V s , 

Will history repeat Itself? 
Lewlston Tribune, Idaho 

"Stepping atones' 


pawns of Russian power, U.S. is not threatened by Communist ideol- 
ogy but it is threatened by Kremlin expansionism. . . . 

A further large group (48) had a much more foreshortened time 
perspective. They tended to see the danger as closer, sometimes as 
imminent. Their accent was more on the explicit danger of aggres- 
sion from the other side, arising out of 

Soviet and Chinese imperialism; Chinese Communist aggressiveness 
and expansionism; the great aggressive force of a Russian-Chinese com- 
bination; China's armies; threat of Communist victories in Southeast 
Asia; Chinese expansionism is our major danger, just as Japan was 
fifteen years ago, second now only to Russia. . . . 

The danger is often pinpointed in time and place: 

clear and present danger of war at any time; could happen right now; 
the Indochina problem; danger of attack on Quemoy and Matsu, on 
Formosa . . . 

or linked to some particular contingency or breaking point: 

if collapse occurs in South Viet Nam or Indonesia; if Communists 
attack the Philippines; if China industrializes and there is no reconcili- 
ation; if India goes Communist; if all Asia goes Communist; if a Com- 
munist Asia combines with the Soviet Union. . . . 

The vision of the growth of an intercontinental combination hos- 
tile to the United States begins at this point in our spectrum to 
assume overwhelming proportions in the minds of a certain num- 
ber (13) of our people. They too see only the external foe ? but they 
see him large, in great, lurid, deep shadows thrown against the 
screens of the imagination. Here all the entities are huge and all are 

a greater long-run threat than Russia itself, a solid Communist bloc 
from Cermany to the Pacific, molded by Communism, a threat to the 
world; a vast continental power, vast resources, a Communist Eurasia 
spreading its influence to the Western Hemisphere; vast populations 
spilling over into the less densely populated parts of the world; look 
ahead 25, 50, or 100 years to an industrialized China, an industrialized 
Asia, hating the West; Soviet imperialism plus Chinese imperialism, 
overwhelming combinations of Asian populations; Western civilization 
is outnumbered, white civilization is outnumbered, and could go under; 
we have 30 years in which to face up to a bloc of 900 million Com- 


munists with a great land empire, vast impact, interior communica- 
tions, modern weapons. . . . 

Even in a kaleidoscope, it is no simple matter to pass from the 
apocalyptic dimensions of the last of these images to other narrower, 
sharper particulars. In search of a transition, we stopped to look 
more closely at the 13 apocalyptics. They turned out to be a varied 
and in fact quite distinguished group: a noted historian and an in- 
ternationally famous novelist, 3 well-known journalists, one of 
the country's top publishers, 3 government officials of middle rank 
and an ex-official of considerably higher place, an executive of 
a large women's organization, a politician, and a churchman. One 
thing they visibly had in common was a lack: none had ever had 
substantial contact with Asia or Asians. Four of them had touched 
down fleetingly in a few Asian cities, 9 had never traveled that way 
at all. Three of the group have latterly had some professional 
concern with Asian affairs, but peripherally and at a distance, in an 
editor's chair, at the United Nations in New York, at a desk in 
Washington. The other 10 were totally uninvolved. Unencumbered 
by any experience with Asians or contact with Asia, they stood far 
enough away to be able to see it only in its continental dimensions. 
Like most people, they carried these dimensions in their minds on 
a scale of vast immensity both of space and of numbers of people. 
They likewise all had an acute appreciation of the Communist dan- 
ger. Since there were many others who combined the same or sim- 
ilar elements and came out with somewhat different results, it 
follows that a further quantity, some ingredient of outlook or per- 
sonality, must be included in the equation: Lack of contact plus 
Images of undifferentiated vastness plus Fear equals An apocalyptic 
view. Whatever the specific weight of each element, it is at least 
clear that it is a good deal easier to achieve a vision of the apocalypse 
if the view remains unimpeded by too many of the complicating 
particulars of the Asian scene, its infinity of divisions, places, and 
contending realities. 

From this look at the ultrapessimists, we turned with sharpened 
interest to the other end of the spectrum, to the small band of 
stubborn optimists, the 16 members of the panel who said that they 
did not feel that Asia was a source of future danger for the United 
States. Here again it was clear that more than a view of the world 
separates the optimist from the pessimist. On the nature of the per- 


sonality differences that distinguish them, we must pass. But other 
more visible facts about these individuals quickly emerge. 

First, this group of i6 7 in contrast to the much larger group of 
129 more worried individuals and even more so to the ultrapessi- 
mists, produced a much larger proportion of individuals with Asian 
experience. It included 6 specialists, 6 with secondary involvement, 
and only 4 of the uninvolveds. 

Second, the uninvolveds were "optimistic 77 about Asia only be- 
cause they felt Asia was not a danger to the United States because 
the real or greater danger lay elsewhere: 

the real danger is outside Asia, i.e., in Russia, Asia is only a tool; I see 
technical advances as the essential aspect, don't even think of Russia 
by itself as such a tremendous threat, but of Russia combined with 
Germany; Asia's problems are at the bread and water level, it could 
provide only large masses of people for Russia to use against us; con- 
sidering our power [no purely Asian threat] could really be serious if 
we acted right. . . . 

The optimism of the 12 Asia-experienced individuals was of quite 
a different order: 

the peoples I knew in Asia are not aggressive; their own problems and 
their own progress will remain central; I am optimistic, I think we will 
be more sensible about Asia and get along better; people are attracted 
to the West, by and large, in the long run it will work out; Asians 
don't want to dominate the world, they want to live with it, they don't 
want Communism. . . . 

These individuals may be optimists by nature; on this we can offer 
no finding. But it is also decisively relevant that the Asian experi- 
ence of all 12 of them is connected with India and in 2 cases also 
with Southeast Asia. This makes it clear that the peoples they know 
who, they say, are not aggressive, who are attracted to the West, 
who want to live with the world, are in no case the Chinese. China, 
where the great majority of our panelists see a future threat, has in 
the minds of these individuals remained largely a blank. 

We can discern here, if we will, the beginning of an outline of 
the effect of kind of experience on a broad issue of opinion and 
feeling. A scale has been drawn in these pages on the issue of future 
danger in Asia, and a range has appeared from stubborn optimists, 
through a large middle group of mixed views sharing a basically 
pessimistic or worried outlook, to the ultrapessimists. When we re- 

"ASIA" 61 

late location on this scale to kind of contact and experience with 
Asia, this pattern comes into view: 

Individuals with minimal or no contact with Asia or Asians 
distribute themselves over the entire range, occupying all of the ultra- 
pessimistic ground and a small corner among the optimists; 

Individuals with Asian experience are wholly absent from the 
ultrapessimistic extreme, but only people with India or Southeast 
Asia experience appear among the optimists; 

Individuals with China background are absent from both ex- 
tremes and all cluster in the large middle group which shares a fear 
of future danger for the United States in Asia, differing only in the 
ways they define it. 

Here, as throughout this initial kaleidoscopic view of the impact 
of "Asia" on these American minds, the scene is dominated by 
China, whether it be among the fainter marks left in a remoter past, 
the plainer scratches made by events through the years, or the deeper 
gashes cut by the fears of the present. 



C:E CHINA'S GREAT RIVERS, flooding and receding and shifting their 
courses to the sea 7 American images of the Chinese have trav- 
eled a long and changing way, from Marco Polo to Pearl Buck, from 
Genghiz Khan to Mao Tse-tung. 

The name of Marco Polo is scratched onto the mind of almost 
every American school child. Attached to it are powerful images of 
China's ancient greatness, civilization, art, hoary wisdom. With it in 
time comes a heavy cluster of admirable qualities widely attributed 
to the Chinese as people: high intelligence, persistent industry, filial 
piety, peaceableness, stoicism. These were attributes identified in our 
own generation with the people of Pearl Buck's novels, solid, simple, 
courageous folk staunchly coping with the blows of fate and adverse 

Genghiz Khan and his Mongol hordes are the non-Chinese an- 
cestors of quite another set of images also strongly associated with 
the Chinese: cruelty, barbarism, inhumanity; a faceless, impenetrable, 
overwhelming mass, irresistible if once loosed. Along this way we 
discover the devious and difficult heathen, the killers of girl infants, 
the binders of women's feet, the torturers of a thousand cuts, the 
headsmen, the Boxer Rebellion and the Yellow Peril, the nerveless 
indifference to pain, death, or to human disaster, the whole set of 
lurid, strange, and fearful images clustered around the notion of the 



awakening giant and brought vividly to life again by Mao Tse-tung's 
"human sea" seen flooding down across the Yalu, massed barbarians 
now armed not with broadswords but with artillery, tanks, and jet 

In the long history of our associations with China, these two sets 
of images rise and fall, move in and out of the center of people's 
minds over time, never wholly displacing each other, always coexist- 
ing, each ready to emerge at the fresh call of circumstance, always 
new, yet instantly garbed in all the words and pictures of a much- 
written literature, made substantial and unique in each historic 
instance by the reality of recurring experience. This interchange 
might vary lineally from epoch to epoch according to its particular 
history, or collaterally from person to person, according to his par- 
ticular experience or personality. Thus, advancing or receding but 
somewhere always in view, our concepts of China have included 
both a sense of almost timeless stability and almost unlimited chaos. 
Our notions of Chinese traits have included sage wisdom and super- 
stitious ignorance, great strength and contemptible weakness, im- 
movable conservatism and unpredictable extremism, philosophic 
calm and explosive violence. Our emotions about the Chinese have 
ranged between sympathy and rejection, parental benevolence and 
parental exasperation, affection and hostility, love and a fear close 
to hate. 

Today these contending views and emotions jostle each other at 
close quarters, for we are in the midst of a great passage from one 
set to the other. The dominant impressions of the 181 Americans 
interviewed for this study were acquired in the past on which the 
gates clanged so abruptly in 1949. Direct communication was severed 
almost at a single blow. Since then, live American contact with 
China itself has been cut until it is virtually nonexistent, dropping to 
the presence of a handful of Americans held in Chinese Communist 
prisons and links on Formosa to survivors of the debacle. What 
went before has already acquired the j>atina of nostalgia; the quality 
of sadly retrieving a receding past was almost palpable in many of 
the interviews. What has happened since 1949 has quickly acquired 
all the distortions of the unknown, dimly seen and greatly feared 
across a great distance. 

The images of the Chinese that still so largely govern in the 
minds of most of these Americans are for the most part the product 
of the experience of the first four decades of this century. This ex- 


perience is framed in a characteristic and meaningful paradox. The 
beginning of this experience included the powerful prejudice and 
contempt and violent rejection which had marked American atti- 
tudes and behavior toward the Chinese who had come to the United 
States. Out of this came the exclusion laws and all the mythology 
and synthetic villainy attached in popular folklore to the China- 
towns and the Chinese laundries right across the country, a pattern 
which persists in some measure right down to the present time. But 
these also became the years of the full flowering of the most sympa- 
thetic images of the great qualities and great virtues of the Chinese 
who had sensibly remained in China. Whether directly or vicari- 
ously, through event, book, or pervading climate, these images were 
widely spread and absorbed and became part of the mental baggage 
of almost everyone who could read or went to church. It was com- 
mon to find in our interviews that even the scantiest notions about 
China and the Chinese acquired in this time were likely to be in 
some way, however slight, favorably disposed, kindly, or admiring 
of the Chinese, or at least vaguely sympathetic to their needs and 
travails. The Chinese on their own ground were a people Amer- 
icans had always helped, a nation that somehow evoked a special 
and unique benevolence and even a sense of obligation, a people 
of sterling qualities who deservedly held our high regard. 

These impressions are not likely to be reproduced in any similar 
form in the minds of today's children or to reappear in their think- 
ing when they grow into maturity. Their images of the Chinese are 
being shaped by the new circumstances and their multitudinous re- 
flections in the classroom, in print and film, pictureand cartoon, in 
the voices carrying the news by radio, in the faces on the television 
screens. 1 The members of our present panel, on the other hand, are 
creatures of their longer past. They are caught in the melee of the 
images of China on which they were raised and the new images 
of hostility, cruelty, of easily imposed and easily maintained tyranny, 
and even of mortal danger. If Americans do again go to China in 
coming years in any numbers, they are much less likely to come 
back, as they did so often in the past, with warm feelings produced 

1 Of 380 Connecticut high school students tested in January, 19577 ^7 P 61 
cent saw China as a nation "to watch out for." Asked to estimate American 
foreign relations over the next ten years, 59 per cent of the same group predicted 
that China would be "unfriendly" and 26 per cent said it would be "hostile." 
Victor E. Pitkin, An Adventure in Educational Television, Conn. State Dept. of 
Education, Hartford, 1957, pp. 4041. 


by the good life they could lead there, or with the same impressions 
of Chinese wisdom, approachability, humor, polite deference, 
friendly hospitality, pragmatic intelligence. 

To be sure, the rapidly fading images retrieved in these pages will 
not disappear entirely. But whenever and however they re-emerge, 
they will be different or recur in some new combination of circum- 
stances and emotion. The process of reincarnation is not the same 
thing as the story of the sleeping beauty. In this sense, the passing of 
these images and attitudes is really a death and this report is an 

China occupies a special place in a great many American minds. 
It is remote, strange, dim, little known. But it is also in many ways 
and for many people oddly familiar, full of sharp images and asso- 
ciations, and uniquely capable of arousing intense emotion. Some 
kind of American acquaintance with China and the Chinese goes 
back to the beginning of our national history. In its quality of vague 
and long-standing familiarity, this historic connection is matched 
in the lives of many individuals by a smiling memory evoked from 
earliest childhood: they knew almost as early as they knew anything 
that if you dug that hole on down right through the earth you would 
come out the other side in China. This fixed in many a young mind 
the idea that China was about as far away as you could get without 
dropping off into space, but at least it firmly situated China on this 
planet and gave it a certain unique identity. 

Whatever little these Americans went on to learn in school about 
Asia, most of it generally had to do with China, even if it was noth- 
ing more than the bare outlines of the Marco Polo story. Whatever 
reached them about Asia in their years of growing up from moving 
pictures, newspapers and magazines, books, or other sources, the bulk 
again ordinarily dealt with something about China or the Chinese. 2 

2 The preponderance of China material in the slim Asia content of American 
school texts has already been indicated. Other indices: Of 8,677 articles about 
Asian countries in American magazines listed in the Reader's Guide to Periodical 
Literature between 1919 and 1939, 3.783 3, 01 nearly half, dealt with China. Of a 
roughly approximated total of about 3,600 books of American imprint about 
Asia listed in the United States Catalog (1902-27) and the Cumulative Book 
Index (1928-55), about one-third dealt with China, Of 325 films dealing with 
Asian subjects fisted by Dorothy Jones for the period 1896-1955, 246, or more 
than two-thirds, dealt with the China scene or Chinese characters. Cf. her The 
Portrayal of China and India on the American Screen, 18961955, Center for 
International Studies, M. I. T., October, 1955, Appendix III. 


If the only image of an "Oriental" in their minds was the image of 
that well-known "inscrutable Oriental," the chances are that he was 
dressed and looked like a Chinese. Until the events of only the last 
fifteen years, which brought so much more of the trans-Pacific world 
so abruptly into view, China was for many Americans the most iden- 
tifiable particular associated with Asia as a whole. 

Chinese motifs have in fact long been woven into parts of the 
American fabric. Along with the many other ideas they absorbed 
from the writers and thinkers of Europe's Age of Enlightenment, 
some of America's first and most important leaders acquired a highly 
respectful view indeed of the merits of Chinese civilization and even 
thought it worthy of emulation in their own new world. The tea 
that was dumped into Boston harbor on the day of that famous party 
came off a British ship that had just arrived from Amoy, China. 
The first American clipper ship sailed from New England to the 
China coast in 1784, the year after the Republic was founded. It 
was sent out by Robert Morris, the financier of the American Revo- 
lution. It bore the name Empress of China, and it opened one of 
the most romantic and glamorized chapters in American maritime 
history, celebrated to this day in moving pictures, storybooks, and 
history primers. Ships with names like Asia and Canton plied this 
trade for decades. The merchant mariners who sailed in them 
brought back tea and silk and ideas about China and the Chinese, 
and even brought back some Chinese as visitors. They added the 
Chinese touches to the decor of New England homes that are still 
visible today, they built Chinese pavilions in their suburban gardens 
and contributed a thin layer of awareness of the Chinese to their 
countrymen, a blend of romance, excitement, obscurity, beauty, dis- 
tance, oddity, quaintness, and danger which has continued to exert 
its influence on American thinking about China down to our time. 
It was from one of these merchant families, named Delano, that a 
President of the United States acquired his own active sense of a 
personal link to knowledge of China. 

The merchants were followed quickly to the China coast by some 
of the first American missionaries. The movement of these mission- 
aries to China, first in twos and threes in the 1830*5, then in tens, 
eventually in hundreds, and ultimately in thousands, made it the 
largest single theater of American missionary enterprise. This enter- 
prise and the men and women who took part in it placed a perma- 
nent and decisive impress on the emotional underpinning of Ameri- 


can thinking about China. The scratches they left on American minds 
over the generations, through the nineteenth century and into our 
own time, are often the most clearly marked, the longest-enduring, 
and the most powerfully influential of all. More than any other 
single thing, the American missionary effort in China is responsible 
for the unique place China occupies in the American cosmos, for 
the special claim it has on the American conscience. 

Shortly after these Americans began to go to China as evangelists, 
Chinese emigrants began, for quite different reasons, to come in 
large numbers to the United States. Between 1854 and 1882, some 
300,000 Chinese laborers entered this country, most of them for the 
original purpose of working on the building of the western rail- 
roads. Those who stayed for more than a short time created the 
beginnings of a permanent Chinese segment in American life itself. 
They found a place in the country's increasingly polyglot population 
and in its prejudice patterns, becoming the first people to be ex- 
cluded by law from entering the land of the free. They produced a 
whole set of figures, stereotypes, and notions now as firmly fixed 
in American folklore and literature as the residual Chinese-American 
population itself (120,000 in 1950) is in American society. The ex- 
perience with Chinese in the United States is second only to the 
missionary experience as a source of some of the principal images 
and emotions about the Chinese to be found in contemporary 
American minds. In addition to the immigrant laborers, some 22,000 
other Chinese, usually of a quite different class, also came to this 
country from China, between 1854 and 1949, to study at American 
colleges and universities, creating still another major source of image- 
forming contact and experiences for the Americans, typified by many 
in our panel, whom they knew as friends, fellow students, and teach- 
ers over these several generations. 

Other major links have been numerous and long-lasting. American 
trade with China has been more or less continuous since 1784. Al- 
though it never assumed large relative proportions, the lure of what 
it might be, the dream of 400,000,000 customers, has provided one 
of the major drives for American interest in China and behavior 
toward it. This has been particularly true of American political re- 
lations with China, which go back in the formal treaty-making sense 
to the first pact signed by Caleb Gushing in 1844, with major Amer- 
ican participation and involvement in Chinese affairs continuous 
ever since. American armed forces have fought in small wars and 


big in China. They participated in the quelling of the Boxer Rebel- 
lion in 1900. They figured repeatedly in subsequent decades in treaty 
port upheavals and river skirmishes. There were, finally, the great 
flow of nearly a quarter of a million Americans to China during 
World War II, and the military teams of the few postwar years 
that closed one epoch, and the armed collision in Korea, which 
opened another. 

These Chinese pieces in the American mosaic are not large when 
viewed against the whole of the American pattern of experience; but 
neither are they small. They are certainly visible to the naked eye. 
They involved the lives of many thousands of Americans mission- 
aries, traders, diplomats, soldiers and sailors, scholars, teachers, jour- 
nalists, among them a small but highly influential number of people 
who grew deeply committed to their China interests. Their influ- 
ence spread to an extraordinary number of odd corners in our public 
and private lives. 3 

Our major cities have their Chinatowns. Our museums are full of 
examples of Chinese art, our libraries stacked with books by Ameri- 
cans who have written extensively about Chinese life, history, poli- 
tics, society, art, poetry, gardens, and even cooking, and a familiar 
literature of another kind, tales of crime and adventure in which 
Chinese heroes and villains abound. 

Our everyday existence is dotted with Chinese flecks familiar to 
adults and children alike. The vogue for Chinese decor in home dec- 
oration, introduced by the New England mariners more than a cen- 
tury ago, is still with us and has extended in more recent years to 
Chinese themes in women's fashions and even in facial makeup. 
The national craze for mah-jongg came and went in the 1920'$, but 
Chinese restaurants have become a familiar part of the urban Amer- 
ican landscape and "chop suey" and "chow mein" and many more 

3 A directory compiled in 1941 by Wilma Fairbank showed a total of 107 
organizations in the United States that were concerned with China. These in- 
cluded 24 mission organizations, 17 interested in medical work in China, 17 
concerned with educational activities, a dozen information, news, and propa- 
ganda groups, 11 American colleges and universities with China affiliates, and a 
scattering of others engaged in relief, industrial and agricultural training and 
exchanges, etc. The directory listed 1 5 university centers of Chinese studies, 1 2 
major library collections of Chinese books, 5 major Chinese art collections, 9 
periodicals concerned with China. This list did not, of course, include business 
firms with China interests. See Wilma Fairbank, Directory of Organizations in 
America Concerned -with China, American Council of Learned Societies, Wash- 
ington, D. C., 1942. 


sophisticated dishes have been naturalized in this land of many 
cuisines. Because of their familiarity with these restaurants, or from 
the wrappings torn from packets of firecrackers in times past, or 
from the colorful signs on Chinatown streets, millions of Americans, 
certainly, are able to identify Chinese writing. From a host of com- 
mon sources, we are able from an early age to recognize with instant 
familiarity the conical straw hat of the Chinese peasant or the up- 
turned corners of a Chinese-style roof. We know Chinese puzzles, 
Chinese checkers, Chinese lanterns, Chinese red, Chinese yellow- 
indeed, Webster $ New International Dictionary has almost three 
crowded columns of words prefixed by "Chinese/* including some 
of the best-loved of our flowers, brought in from China and natu- 
ralized long ago, azalea, hibiscus, peony, wisteria. 4 

There is almost no end to the familiarity of Chinese strangeness, 
no counting the many bits and pieces of knowledge that add up to 
our national ignorance about China. Taken all together, they have 
established an immensely varied array of ideas, images, notions, atti- 
tudes, and real or vicarious awareness of China and the Chinese 
shared in some degree and to some extent by millions of Americans 
for many generations. 

As we consider this array, especially as it appeared in the minds 
of the people interviewed, it is difficult not to recall that Americans 
are often stereotypically viewed as people prone to deal in blacks 
and whites, in contending absolutes, and that the Chinese are often 
said to have built much of their culture on their sense of the duality 
of the human spirit and experience. For these American images of 
the Chinese tend largely to come in jostling pairs. The Chinese are 
seen as a superior people and an inferior people; devilishly exasper- 
ating heathens and wonderfully attractive humanists; wise sages and 

4 The term "Chinese homer" popped back into public notice in 1954 when 
Dusty Rhodes of the New York Giants won a World Series game with a 270- 
foot fly that dropped into a nearby grandstand for a home run. A "drooping 
wallop" like this, the sports writers explained next day, was "a cheap homer" and 
had come to be called a "Chinese homer" in the last generation because of the 
popular association with "cheap Chinese labor." It expressed both a sense of 
Chinese punmess or weakness and the idea of "getting something for nothing." 
The revival of the term brought a protest from a leading New York Chinatown 
figure. The New York Times account felt it necessary to say that the coiner of 
the phrase "had no thought of disparaging the Chinese people/' while the Boston 
Globe devoted its major editorial of the day to a warning that "these times re- 
quire of Americans the greatest tact/' so that "hits like Dusty's must find a new 
name/ 7 (October i, 1954.) 


sadistic executioners: thrift}- and honorable men and sly and devious 
villains; comic opera soldiers and dangerous fighters. These and many 
other pairs occur and recur, with stresses and sources varying widely 
in time and place. As many of our interviews have shown, they are 
often jumbled all together, with particular facets coming more 
clearly into view when struck by the moving lights of changing cir- 

We have made it our task not only to try to retrieve and describe 
these images but to try to see them as the lights struck them, in 
their many historical settings and the emotional climates they 
created. We have tried to see the reflectors that cast these many 
pictures into the forefronts of our panelists" minds, and, somewhat 
like Alice, we have stepped through them to discover what lay be- 
hind. Sometimes this has taken us back for a long excursion into 
history; sometimes back only to yesterday's experience or encounter, 
a book read or somebody's words remembered. But always, the 
changing experiences of many decades mingled. As we move among 
them, a certain chronology establishes itself, and if we were to list 
it crudely, like an exercise in a history text, it would look something 
like this: 


The Age of Respect (Eighteenth Century) 

2. The Age of Contempt (1840-1905) 

3. The Age of Benevolence (1905-1937) 

4. The Age of Admiration (1937-1944) 

5. The Age of Disenchantment (1944-1949) 

6. The Age of Hostility (1949- ) 

But let no one think each of these ages stamps itself uniformly on 
its time. Each lives on into and through the other, and in all their 
many expressions they coexist, even now. For these ages are not 
measured merely by the calendar or the conditions but by all the 
kinds of people there are. They can suggest only where, in this time 
or that, the lights shone brightest, and which images therefore were 
the most clearly seen and which emotions most commonly held. 
In our own most recent years, these lights have moved with such 
rapidity that almost every man's view takes on the quality of a 
kaleidoscope in which all the images blur and in which no single 
image ever quite comes to rest. 



A FIRST PANEL-EYE VIEW of a composite of all the bits and pieces in 
our interviews makes it appear at once that, all politics and problems 
aside, most of our Americans regarded the Chinese as a most at- 
tractive people indeed. Whether this shows up on the kaleidoscope 
screen in great stereotyped globs or in sharp individualized vignettes, 
the main effect is much the same. Sweepingly admiring generaliza- 
tions about the Chinese people as a whole appear in great profusion. 
They were described as 

down-to-earth, pragmatic, practical, good, kind, highly civilized, vigor- 
ous, industrious, persevering, courageous, loyal, wise, independent, 
pleasant, sensitive, canny, thrifty, rugged, competent, subtly humorous, 
jolly, dynamic, dignified, cheerful, astute; the finest people; a gifted 
race; quite wonderful people; the most adult and mature people in the 
world; the outstanding inhabitants of Asia. . . . 

Individual Chinese were described as 

intelligent, high-caliber, attractive, likable, decent, nice, fine, upstand- 
ing, topnotch, worthy, lovable, extraordinary, individually just tops. . . . 

And describing their own feelings about the Chinese, panelists said 

liked them; were fond of them; had great respect for them all; admired 
them; had deep attachments; warm, friendly feelings; liked being 
among Chinese; love the Chinese. . . . 

Views of this general tenor were held lightly or warmly, mildly or 
strongly. They were based on much or little experience with Chinese 
or on none at all, on knowledge, rumor, or on impressions acquired 
from print, picture, or person. In all their varieties, these predom- 
inantly admiring attitudes about the Chinese were shared by 123 
members of our panel. 

It takes a second, sharper look at the kaleidoscope screen to see 
the more shadowy places where the less attractive images of the 
Chinese lurk, and where attitudes of dislike, antipathy, and hostility 
are to be found. Here too sweeping characterizations of the Chinese 
were made. By these tokens they were 


unreliable, devious, untrustworthy, cruel, callous, materialistic, ineffi- 
cient, socially irresponsible, excitable, repulsive in mobs; xenophobic, 
not highly intellectual, inscrutable, confused, overciviiized, strange, 
queer, different . . , 

and those for whom these characterizations were decisive said: 

I don't like the Chinese; can't ever tell what they think; they never 
show whether they like me; have no high opinion of them; feel funny 
about the Chinese; felt a certain animosity. . . . 

These images and attitudes, as part of a predominantly negative 
view, were held by 31 members of our panel. In between there were 
6 individuals whose views were either too detached or too differen- 
tiated to fit any dominant bias. 5 

From a different vantage point, we get a panel-eye view of an- 
other kind: a composite of the qualities most frequently attributed 
to the Chinese. Here, in their most recurrent forms and by the 
numbers of panelists who mentioned them, is what we see: 


Generalized remarks 6 114 

High intellectual quality 106 

Warm, polite, friendly, charming 95 

Favorable stereotypes (down-to-earth," etc.) 91 

Vital, good sense of humor 61 

Competent, able 53 

Strong family ties, institutions 48 

Easy to communicate with 47 

Quiet, restrained, reticent 45 

Ancient civilization, etc 43 

Reliable, honest 34 

Physically attractive 29 


Unreliable, shrewd, opportunistic, dishonest, devious , . 64 

Generalized remarks 6 53 

Military menace . . 46 

Inscrutable, difficult to communicate with 41 

Cruel 32 

Lack social consciousness 32 

5 The total is 160. There were nine interviewees whose views of the Chinese 
were too scanty to be included, and 12 whose interviews were incomplete in this 

6 E.g., on the positive side: "The Chinese are wonderful people," "I like the 
Chinese"; or, on the negative: "Strange, xenophobic people," "dislike the 


Unvital . 14 

Incompetent, inefficient 12 

Low intellectual capacity 9 

Physically unattractive 8 

These assorted views of the Chinese appeared in the interviews 
in many individual mixes and combinations. It is obvious that one 
could respect the intellectual capacity or competence of a Chinese 
without necessarily liking him, or, liking him, still find him a menac- 
ing figure in the present world scene. Some individuals might have 
suggested that "the Chinese" are honest or dishonest; others noted 
more carefully that they had met some Chinese who were honest 
and some who were crooks. This discrimination, I might add, was 
by no means always the product of greater experience. Some of our 
oldest "old China hands" were among the most profligate generaliz- 
ers; others with no experience whatsoever were sometimes more par- 
ticular. And experience itself varies: some saw Chinese as "quiet, 
reticent, restrained" where others saw them as violent and excitable, 
and might have liked or disliked them for either quality. The fact 
is, in any case, that these orderly ranks of contending attributes do 
not cluster in any such orderly fashion around those who respectively 
admire or do not admire the Chinese. In varying measures, they are 
all mentioned by all, pro and con. What differs from person to per- 
son is the weight each gives to these attributes in fixing his own 
ultimate bias. 

Thus you will note that in the heaviest count against the Chinese, 
64 individuals mentioned some item along the scale of dishonest, 
devious, unreliable, opportunistic, shrewd. Indeed, almost no person 
with any substantial experience with Chinese failed to mention it as 
one of his images or impressions of at least some Chinese. Some 
even did so admiringly: "You knew he was doing you in the eye, but 
you didn't resent it." For others, it was simply outweighed, at least 
until yesterday, by other kindlier characteristics. "They could steal 
all I had," said a Catholic ex-missionary, "but I would still like them. 
... I am prejudiced about the Chinese." Only for 14 of our panel- 
ists was it a decisive part of an attitude that was on the whole nega- 
tive. Again, the sense that Chinese are or can be cruel was 
mentioned by 32 individuals, but for 24 of these it was only a 
shadowed corner in an otherwise brighter picture; only for 8 did it 
darken much of what they saw. 


The Admiring Views 

The remarkably preponderant admiration for the Chinese das- 
played by this group of Americans is going to take a good deal of 
scrutiny. As we go along, we shall try to discover its details, its limits, 
its undersides, its many complications. We shall explore the history 
and circumstances that produced it. We shall also have to examine 
the ways in which it is changing, for while these images and attitudes 
are still too strong, too fresh, too strongly surviving to have passed 
into history, they have already in large measure become reminis- 
cence. All who hold them must look back to keep them in view. 

It is plain, to begin with, that a liking for the Chinese, or at least 
the notion that they are an attractive or an impressive people, could 
develop in members of our panel out of all sorts and shadings of 
experience. As we look more closely at the groups that form among 
these many admirers, we find that those who knew the Chinese 
best or at least had the longest and closest contact with them 
were the most enthusiastic of all. Of the 19 individuals holding the 
strongest views on the subject, 12 would qualify as what are known 
nowadays as "old China hands" and at least 4 others are in the 
same class at least by association. Said a well-known journalist, whose 
view is insistently the large one: 

The Chinese have the greatest and most unique history in the world, 
the only nation on earth with a continuous history since Neolithic 
times. They are dynamic, resilient, powerful, with a great capacity to 
survive and come back and a remorseless power of expansion over time. 
A great practical people. You don't often find a Chinese who is a fool. 

An army officer: 

I think of their warmth, friendliness, curiosity, interest, ingenuity, 
humor. They would do you in the eye, but as a game, not to do you 
harm. Their idea was never to grind a man so far that you take away 
his rice bowl. Even if he is an enemy, leave him something. Terrific 
energy, resilience to disaster and misfortune. I have a sound and pro- 
found respect for them as people. I feel sympathy because I like them. 
I think I understand them. It was never difficult to learn to think as a 
Chinese. Like any old people, of course, there is a certain cynicism, too 
much civilization. I think they deserve a better fate than they have had, 
not only today but under the Kuomintang regime as well. 


A China-born notable: 

The Chinese are pretty human. This is an indefinite word. But I 
mean they have quick instant recognition of the concrete fact of a 
particular individual. This goes between two Chinese or between a 
Chinese and an American. What each wants is instantly understood. 
The Chinese have an intense realism, yet are suffused with a certain 
poetry and gaiety. No matter how poor he is, the Chinese has his 
pleasures, in a bird, or in games, or in gambling, in the play of wits, 
pageantry, festivals, weddings, funerals. Life is hard, but he gets all the 
enjoyment he can out of it. 

A government official: 

I have known too many Chinese to generalize about them. But I 
tend to like them. They are energetic, vigorous. The educated have 
subtle minds, a nice sense of humor. I've had a good deal of personal 
respect even for those on the opposite side of the fence. They are 
shrewd and dishonest in an institutionalized sort of way, but it doesn't 
bother you because it is recognized. 

These examples could be multiplied several times from within 
our present panel and many times outside of it, for it is nearly axio- 
matic that Americans who lived in China during the several decades 
before Pearl Harbor became admirers of the country and its people. 
Their experience aroused in them a certain radiating enthusiasm, 
and since most of these individuals were communicators by profes- 
sion, they did much to create the mood, air, and feeling attached 
to many ideas about the Chinese. Great hosts of their countrymen 
were brushed by this Sinophilic fall-out over the years. The evidence 
of its effect is overwhelming in our panel. We shall have occasion 
later to meet not only more of these Sinophiles but all kinds of 
Sinophiles-by-association and Sinophiles-by-osmosis. Here are but a 
few examples: 

My favorable impressions come from people who had been in China. 
It was a fairly common expenence to meet such people. They always 
saw the Chinese as friends, knew China as a friendly country. . . . 

I got my first impression of the Chinese from my "girl" in high 
school, who belonged to a missionary family. They all loved the 
Chinese. I really don't know why. I don't know why I love the Chinese, 
but I do. 

I have a closer, warmer feeling about the Chinese. . . . Maybe it was 


the novels of Pearl Buck and Nora Wain. I did have much contact 
with China-lovers and was filled with China lore before I went out 
there. . . . 

Brief firsthand experience of China popped up quite unexpectedly 
in the lives of a number of individuals whose careers have had noth- 
ing primarily to do with China at all. Thus a former college presi- 
dent and foundation executive: 

I went to China with my father on a business trip when I was ten. 
Later I knew Chinese graduate students at Harvard and since then have 
met all sorts of officials and visitors here. I like them all, almost without 
exception. The fact is there is almost no Chinese I dislike. I like every- 
thing about the Chinese. Somehow "China" and the "Chinese" do not 
make me think at all of the present political scene and personalities, 
but of the Chinese silks and embroideries in my home as a child, that 
steamboat ride up the Yangtze. That trip when I was a kid of ten is the 
most vivid of all my memories. 

Another, now a noted scholar in his own right, visited China with 
his father when he was sixteen: 

Chinese students used to come to our house. In China on that trip 
many of his ex-students gave tremendous receptions in his honor. 
Chinese visitors at my father's house were sophisticated, intelligent 
people. I think of them as Western types, perhaps because of their 
facility with the language. I think of Chinese in the mass as infinitely 
primitive, but with dignity, like in the movie of The Good Earth, pa- 
tient, cheerful, industrious, hardy. 

A congressman, brought up in a family with strong missionary tra- 
ditions, spent one year, thirty-five years ago, as a non-missionary 
teacher in a mission school in China: 

My contact with Chinese, students and faculty, was always friendly 
and cheerful. I think of the Chinese in general as not so religious or 
spiritual-minded, but with common sense, therefore easy to understand. 
Relationships were very easy. Even if materialism is less admirable as 
a quality, it is easier to understand. Frailties make you like people 

A similar early teaching experience in China played a part in the 
development of some of the basic attitudes of an economics special- 
ist who eventually rose to high posts in the government: 


With the Chinese you could get to know their ways of living and 
thinking. On the philosophic level, felt they were closer to the West- 
ern ethic, a more pragmatic philosophy. I personally made a great shift 
in recognizing truth outside of Christian thought and faith. Was 
brought up to think "good" people were Christians. But I found many 
who weren't Christian who were good and many Christians who were 
skunks. I no longer equated right and wrong to Christian belief. 

One of the country's senior journalists made a brief trip to China in 
1927 and remembers it now this way: 

I got to like the Chinese, felt closer, a warm relationship. Chinese 
are down to earth, more like us in their thinking, practical. Always felt 
comfortable with the Chinese. As a youngster I had thought of "Orien- 
tal" and "barbarian" as the same things, but this quickly disappeared 
in China, where I found the refinements of Chinese civilization, cour- 
teous behavior, food. . . . The Chinese, I gradually learned, felt just 
as superior to me as I had once felt toward them. 

Finally, another distinguished journalist who toured briefly in China 
in 1929: 

I think of the Chinese as very friendly, affable people, though in 
official dealings slow, intricate, baffling. I think of the food mostly. 
The Chinese is about the best cuisine in the world outside of the 
French. One feels that a people who have evolved such food must have 
high qualities and a high civilization. 

But by far the majority of these panelists, 81 out of the 123, had 
never visited China, even fleetingly. China and the Chinese re- 
mained, for most of them, at least until recently, at the outermost 
margins of their preoccupations. Most had incidentally encountered 
only a few Chinese in their whole lives; a few could not remember 
meeting a single one. Yet in every case there had been something to 
scratch their minds, limited notions, scanty, even wispy, yet suf- 
ficient to establish some kind of attitude or bias, sometimes a vague 
sort of feeling which they were hard put to explain. The sources 
to which some of them could trace these feelings were highly varied, 
appearing often in some obscure corner of the individual's own per- 
sonal life or absorbed, almost by osmosis, from somewhere in his 

For some this association was highly personal indeed and only 
accidentally productive of notions about the Chinese. A newspaper 
editor said: 


I do have a feeling of sympathy and liking for the Chinese. Andre 
Siegfried in one of his books compared the Chinese and the French. 
Both grow old gracefully. Both have good food. My wife is French, I 
like the French very much and this comparison struck me. My liking 
for the Chinese is more like a reaction to a work of art, that is for their 
whole history and culture, and not for individuals, of whom I have met 
very few. 

Chinese works of art figured somewhat more literally in another 
case, which was by far the most piquant of its kind. A scholar of 
high repute said he thought of the Chinese as 

delicate, subtle, restrained, keeping individuality at a minimum, not 
too expressive, more formal. They have a much higher aesthetic sense 
than Americans, about the textures of things, imagistic poetry. . . . 

He was not certain, he said, where these highly graphic impressions 
came from, but as he talked on, it developed that as a student at 
Harvard, he had found the Chinese art collection at the Boston 
museum "all strange and unintelligible and not beautiful to me," 
until he began to court a young woman who happened to be im- 
mersed in a study of Chinese art. He went back to the museum with 
his future wife and "she pointed out things" he had not seen be- 
fore. To all Chinese ever since he has lent the qualities he first dis- 
covered in Chinese works of art seen through the eyes of love so 
many years ago. 

Others, with perhaps a somewhat more impersonal and intellec- 
tual bent, often came away deeply impressed even by a scraping 
acquaintance with Chinese philosophy. An example: 

Confucian rationalism, moderation, disrespect for magic, freedom 
from intense sentiment, anything goes so long as it's kept within 
bounds and without too much disturbance I admire a culture that 
houses this. 

Quite often the sources are readily traced to books read out of some 
general or related interest in peoples and their affairs. Here is one, 
a writer himself of considerable note, who was quite explicit in these 

I have pictures in my mind of rice fields, temples, pagodas, padded 
clothing, women with children on their backs. From Pearl Buck the 
idea that Chinese are good people. From Lin Yu-tang the idea of their 
finesse and subtlety. From Malraux deep conspiracies, shadows, vice 


dens, opium, and concubines. From Anna Louise Strong, Agnes Smed- 
ley, and Jack Belden, adulation for the Chinese. From poetry and paint- 
ing, fine lines. I feel the Chinese are hardier, more industrious, good 
craftsmen, good businessmen I get this impression from the Chinese 
I've seen in other countries, all the overseas Chinese laborers who rose 
to the middle class think of 600 million of these efficient, able people! 

Others recall some single past encounter that helped shape a whole 
mold of thinking and attitude: 

A speech I heard a Chinese diplomat make when I was twenty, made 
a great impression on me. Urbane, humane. Took his remarks at face 
value, especially his insistence that the Chinese are not unfathomable. 
He set up my initial stereotypes of the Chinese, that they were practi- 
cal, relaxed, could laugh at themselves. 

Another academician and sometime high government official: 

The best restaurant in my home town was Ah Key's, I used to sell 
him pigeons which I raised. He was kind and generous to kids. Warm, 
kind, wonderful people. Later in Washington I found Chinese officials 
shrewd and persuasive and in Honolulu the Chinese I dealt with were 
the slickest swindlers, but such wonderful, pleasant, cheerful people! 

A vaguely favorable feeling, at first unsupported by any remem- 
bered detail, made a frequent appearance in some of these inter- 
views. An engineer, for example, volunteered: "I have never known 
any Chinese, but I have a generally favorable idea about them." 
Ideas about what, he was asked. "Nothing special I can think of," 
he replied. But then he began to think of things, one by one, and 
here is what came to light: 

Well, I think of carved ivory, good workmanship, neatness and care, 
Pearl Buck, the movie Good Earth, newsreels, trains full of people, 
Japanese bombings. Read Snow's book. Had a Sunday school teacher 
whose brotfier or sister was a missionary in China. Suppose some of my 
ideas got some start there. Terry and the Pirates. Saw a Charlie Chan 
movie on TV the other night. 

In another case, involving an impressively conscientious Washington 
correspondent, the colloquy went like this: 

I can't recall anything specific. 
Anything in general? 

No, it is more that I have no recollection of anything about China 
that isn't favorable or friendly to the Chinese. It's a rnood, I can't 


specify, but I do know I've always had this feeling persisting through 
the years. 

What about 

Wait, come to think of it, some of my fraternity brothers went to 
China as medical missionaries. Also Pearl Buck's Good Earth, gentle, 
simple, hardworking peasants. She was probably uncritical. Then the 
idea that the Chinese are individualistic. What about this idea? It's 
been drilled into us all the time that they are individualistic. 

Who's drilling? 

I can't say who's doing the drilling, but this generalization is always 
being made. You hear it, read it, and never get any counterview. 

Anything else? 

Well, all the Americans I've met who've been in China. I get a 
feeling of tremendous affection for the Chinese people. 

A publicist pursued his initial blankness this way: 

Well, you always seemed to hear a lot about the Chinese without 
ever knowing very much. Back in high school and college, the Chinese 
were always the symbols of Asia. A great people, placid, unaggressive, 
solidly rooted in its culture, how China remained unaltered through 
the centuries, always enduring. A people had to have backbone and 
some greatness for this. And then Pearl Buck and the idea of the 
Chinese as a great human people, fine, patient, ingenious, generous, 
long-suffering, hard-working, smart, philosophical. . . . 

One of the youngest of our panelists, finally, a student still in college, 
said: "I've always had a liking for China for some reason." The 
"reason" turned out to include: 

In high school in 1944 we had something about China in current 
events about the war. Even before that when the Chinese were fighting 
Japan, I was fighting for the Chinese in our kid games. At the summer 
mission the nuns told us about children in China, how poor they were. 
We had clothing drives for them and at home we had a little bank to 
drop pennies in for the missionaries in China. . . . 

By the time, in the pages to come, we have placed such remembered 
items and associations in relation to the circumstances that produced 
them, the reader may be better able to appreciate why these have 
been the patterns of image, attitude, and feeling that from the be- 
ginning of this century until quite recently dominated so much 
American thinking about the Chinese. 


The Unadmiring Views 

Of the 31 members of our panel who did not admire, like, or 
think well of the Chinese, only 3 have ever been to China. 

Two of these are businessmen, and the views of both are gov- 
erned by recent events. The first is a banker who spent the troubled 
interlude of 1946-48 in Shanghai. During those months between 
the takeover from the Japanese and the approach of the new Com- 
munist conquerors, he found his bank a small islet of relative order 
where "we dealt with credit-worthy people" while outside brutality 
and chaos reigned. 

When Chiang Kai-shek's son came into Shanghai, he shot down a 
lot of people. Almost everyone was saying that nothing could be worse 
than the Nationalists. 

The second businessman, an oil company executive, visited China 
only briefly a few times long before the war. He said: 

I am now pretty confused. I had always considered Chinese business- 
men to be high-class, honorable people. But I could now easily see 
every Chinaman drawn and quartered over their unwarranted inter- 
ference in Korea. I was sympathetic to the Chinese when Japan at- 
tacked them, but now I have changed quite a bit. I'm still prepared to 
be friendly with the Chinese I know, but I am not sure now that I can 
trust even them. Events have changed my attitudes. 

The third is a Catholic priest whose focus is a rather different one. 
He visited China for several months in 1931 and said he found "the 
simple people in the countryside" to be "charming, attractive, hard- 
working," but he also decided: 

The Chinese is not spiritual in outlook. In the interior drive of the 
spirit, China is at the lowest level in all Asia. They are more material- 
ist-minded, have no yen for religion, just for empty forms. 

The two businessmen had both spent long years of their careers 
in India and in several respects compared the Chinese unfavorably 
to the Indians. The priest, likewise, had visited India, and his re- 
marks about the Chinese were bracketed with more favorable views 
of the greater "religion-mindedness" of the people he had met in 
India. These are not accidental juxtapositions, for among the 31 
members of our panel with a more or less negative bias toward the 
Chinese, 11 are individuals identified in some degree with India. 


We shall discover later that the converse is equally true: Americans 
who identify strongly with the Chinese are almost all distinctly un- 
attracted to Indians. This is a highly suggestive fact, but it will have 
to wait for us at the far end of the long galleries of images of the 
Chinese and the Indians which we have now only just entered. 

The remaining 27 members of this group of Unadmirers share a 
marked sparseness of personal contact with Chinese. They include 
individuals from every quarter of our panel. Aside from those whose 
contacts in Asia have been with India, other identifying clusters are 
few and not necessarily significant. There are several individuals 
whose links abroad are quite exclusively European; several are prod- 
ucts of Southern birth and upbringing; several are Negroes. There is 
a certain uniformity in all their views. For example, allowing for 
wide differences in degree, most of them have images of the Chinese 
dominated by notions of deviousness and inscrutability. In its mild- 
est form this appears as a mistrust of formal Chinese politeness: 

Fve known a few students, met a few Chinese officials. They are 
very polite, I can almost say careful. They don't want to say or do the 
wrong thing. They make much more of an effort to be like you than 
like themselves. I value frankness highly. The ceremonial approach 
does not appeal to me. This formality means that I don't know where 
I stand with Chinese I meet. I think this is why Americans are often 
suspicious of the Chinese, think they are dishonest, can't be trusted. 

The strong sense of mistrust of the Chinese among these individuals 
rises much more strongly out of their use of words like 

shrewd, wily, crafty, slick, opportunistic, cunning, sly, calculating, 
scheming, unscrupulous, devious. . . . 

Some or all of these qualities are associated by some with the Chi- 
nese businessman, especially the overseas trader, and with the oft- 
used phrase, picked up by one Midwestern congressman, "the 
Jews of the Asiatics/* This does not always mean outright dishon- 
esty, but something fairly close to it. It is interesting to note that 
no American businessman in our panel described his Chinese coun- 
terparts in this way. One of them did say that the Chinese "would 
double-cross and triple-cross you if he could," but he made this 
observation self-admiringly; it only proved how smart an American 
businessman had to be to come out on top. In some cases the notion 
of Chinese dishonesty was linked with the institution of so-called 


"squeeze" the unofficial pocketing of suitable commissions for 
those concerned in almost any transaction. But by far the strongest 
basis for this impression was the solidly entrenched idea of large- 
scale corruption in high Chinese places derived from the widely cur- 
rent accounts of misuse of aid and relief funds by Chinese officials 
during and just after the Second World War, the notion popularly 
summed up in the phrase "operation rathole." Even individuals not 
generally inclined to think too ill of the Chinese remarked on this 
"Chinese officials have set new standards of chicanery/' said one. "I 
always think of them as having ill-gotten gains stashed away some- 
where/' said another. 

The idea of crafty deviousness carries with it the notions of guile 
and hidden motives, and these go with bland impenetrability. The 
Chinese are, in a word, inscrutable. A congressman said: 

I think of Chinese pretending ignorance but understanding per- 
fectly well. Pretended passivity and resistance, apt at concealing what 
they think. This does not necessarily mean they are undesirable char- 

Another congressman who said he had gotten an idea of the Chinese 
as a "savage people" from the comic strip "The Gumps/ 7 said: 

Remember one fellow, bright and courteous, but uncommunicative. 
Didn't know what he thought. He spoke good English, had no diffi- 
culty communicating, but he didn't communicate very much. The 
Chinese officials here in Washington are pretty unfathomable. I have 
never met a Chinaman that I felt I could know, always a barrier. 

A foundation official: 

I have always found the Chinese difficult, never felt that I really 
understood them. Maybe it is a stereotype I've had since childhood of 
the Chinese as mysterious people. I couldn't have got it in my home, 
where we almost made a fetish of tolerance of other people. Maybe it 
was the Fu Manchu stories. Has the idea of "inscrutable" attached to 
it. The fact is I did have the experience of dealing with Chinese and 
never knowing what they really had in mind. 

There were only 14 individuals for whom this difficulty in com- 
munication formed part of a generally unadmiring view of the 
Chinese. There were others who cited the same difficulty, though 
usually in less dramatic form for some it was a matter of language, 
for others a feeling that Chinese liked to keep communication on 


the surface or to confine it to the amenities. The striking thing is 
that among the 41 in all who felt this lack of effective contact, 
there was no one who had ever known any Chinese well. On no 
other characteristic attributed to the Chinese, good or bad, is this 
correlation so clear and so complete. 

There is a final group among these non-admirers of the Chinese 
whose feelings about the Chinese have only the most tenuous con- 
nection of all to the Chinese themselves, relating far more to some 
personality trait, outlook, or particular tangent of experience of their 

One of these is an editor and writer who is so totally immersed 
as a political and cultural being in Europe that he has largely cut 
all non-European people and cultures out of his line of vision. He 
could not remember ever meeting any Chinese or forming any per- 
sonal impression. He acknowledged only some "left-over cliches from 
Pearl Buck" and some notion of China as a land of "ancestral 
cults." He thought of the Chinese either as "enormous masses of 
people" or as non- Western people he had seen in Western settings, 
wearing Western clothes, talking Western languages, and displaying 
Western manners. For all "non- Westerners with a Western veneer," 
he proclaimed his profound aversion, and this was a prejudice held 
almost without regard to race, creed, or color. He applied it to 
virtually all the people occupying all the world's space from the 
Alps to the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, Americans got inside his barrier 
only as the heirs and products of Western European culture and 

Another in this category was a government official, born, raised, 
and educated in the Deep South. He said: 

Despite all I've heard about Oriental cultures, I do not get the im- 
pression of any of them as fine, cultivated people. I don't find myself 
liking the Chinese. I don't know why exactly. 

Two top correspondents for major journals are in this group. One 
of them is a Southerner who remembered that in the city where he 
lived "a lot of Chinese intermarried with Negroes. They were not 
looked on too favorably, a separate people." From what he heard 
during the war about corruption in high Chinese places, from the 
episode of a Chinese official who used his diplomatic status "to 
change wives rather easily," and even from Pearl Buck's novels, he 


acquired the strong notion that the Chinese have "a concept of 
behavior quite alien to the Westerner." The second journalist is a 
religiously inclined individual who remarked that Confucianism 
seemed to be little more than "a code of manners/ 7 The Chinese 
"never produced great ideas, that is, emotional religious works." 

From what I've read about them, they seem capable of great ruth- 
lessness and brutality. They have no grasp of the Christian concept of 
humamtarianism. The speed and ease with which they butcher large 
numbers of people! Beheadings! I remember pictures of rows of heads 
ready for the ax, some old and some more recent, . . . The great con- 
fusion in American interpretations of Chinese affairs makes me think 
it cannot be easy for a Westerner to communicate with the 
Chinese. . . . 

Since we have already quoted one panelist who admired the Chinese 
because they were somehow like the French, it is of some interest 
that these two newsmen both made the same comparison for quite 
the opposite purpose. Said one: 

I draw a parallel between the Chinese and the French. Overripe 
civilizations left both peoples unsuited to hold their own against more 
vigorous, less civilized peoples. Both have an overdeveloped sense of 
individual interest, and the national interest suffers. 

Said the other: 

The Chinese are in a way the French of the Far East; a people self- 
satisfied with their own culture. 

This group also included a well-known public figure who came 
out of a New England background positively cluttered with all the 
classic American links to the Chinese which have ordinarily pro- 
duced a glowingly sentimental feeling about them. Members of his 
family had been in the "China trade" and his grandmother's home 
was "full of all kinds of art objects" they had brought back with 
them from their adventurous voyages. His uncle had been a "great 
admirer of the Chinese," and he himself had been fascinated as a 
lad "by the things in the stores in Boston's Chinatown." But for 
some reason which remained locked away in his past, he had come 
to think of China as "a country that seemed asleep" and of all 
Chinese as "passive" and "undynamic." 

There was nothing obscure about the uniquely particular bias 


toward the Chinese which appeared in the reactions of several 
Negro panelists. A first example: 

I came to regard the Chinese as international Uncle Toms, boot- 
lickers of the white men. Because Chinese restaurants would refuse to 
serve a Negro. The Chinese aping the whites. . . . The same sort of 
reaction to Mme. Chiang Kai-shek's refusal to see a Negro reporter 
when she was over here. Still feel funny about the Chinese. They try 
so damned hard to be accepted by whites. I have never discussed this 
with any Chinese, never knew any well enough. I think of the Chinese 
in general as slick, "damned clever, these Chinese". . . . Never read 
any of Pearl Buck's novels out of lack of interest in her subject. Don't 
think I ever read any book about China as such. 

A second: 

One night in San Francisco during the UN conference in 1945, we 
were turned away from a Chinese place. I said to the Chinese head- 
waiter: "I hope the Japanese kill every goddam Chinaman in China !" 
Of course then we got a table, because they wanted no rumpus. In 
Washington we never went to Chinese restaurants because we knew 
we would be barred. Chinese have followed the patterns of the domi- 
nant group. Our feelings against nonwhites who do this sort of thing 
are stronger than our feelings against the white man. From childhood 
folklore, movies, the Chinese is wily, astute. But the Chinese were 
historically outsmarted in power politics. Couldn't defend their coun- 
try against the white man or the Japanese. Haven't been so clever as 
these childish notions made them out. ... I didn't put much stock in 
the heroic Chinese fight against the Japanese. Chinese seemed to me 
to be incapable of asserting themselves. What was important to me 
was that in areas under Japanese control, the white men would be 
unable to practice discrimination. I thought at the time that people 
who allow strangers to come in and put up signs saying "No Chinese or 
dogs allowed" deserved to have the hell beat out of them. . . . The 
Communists have now asserted the equality of the darker with the 
white race and from this point of view, leaving other matters aside, it's 
a wholesome thing. 

These were, in tone and feeling, the strongest and most hostile of 
all the views of the Chinese to emerge among members of our panel. 

"Old" and "New" 

The onset of "new" images of the Chinese arising out of China's 
new setting as a Communist power, an efficient tyranny, and a dan- 
gerous foe, is a later part of our story. Even from this first panel-eye 


view, however, it may be clear that these "new" images are not 
"new" at all, but for the most part old and long-established con- 
ceptions of the Chinese which are only now, again, after a long 
time in the backstage shadows, being brought out into the bright 
and sometimes lurid light of changing circumstances. To fit the 
new images of the brainwashers, the brutal masters, the devilishly 
clever totalitarians, there are all the older impressions of Chinese 
cruelty, callousness, deviousness, untrustworthiness, and inscrutabil- 
ity. These do not in the least contradict the many other attributes 
of high intelligence, perseverance, adaptability, and a great capacity 
to endure hardship which aroused so much admiration. It is only 
the combination of arrangement of all these traits in the total image 
that has begun to change. 

For the minority in our panel who never did admire, like, or 
think well of the Chinese, the rise of the new circumstances pro- 
vides a certain reinforcement. In many of these cases this is an as- 
sociation rather dimly made, from afar, by individuals who for the 
most part have known very few Chinese personally and often none 
at all. But also for many who knew the Chinese well, the shift in 
roles is not always a shocking surprise. Only the most sentimental 
Sinophiles saw the Chinese in single dimensions, and these are the 
ones who now often tend to characterize the "new" manifestations 
of Chinese behavior as not "Chinese" at all, but rather "Com- 
munist" or even "Russian." The more knowing Sinophile has a 
more complicated view than this; he not only has more knowledge 
but he also has a whole past of intimate associations to reconcile 
with present experience in which no individual Chinese figure at alL 
Sometimes he sits in his American exile from his old home and, in 
the Chinese phrase, eats bitterness: 

It is the bad time of the last years that is now uppermost in my 
mind. ... I think Sinophiles were attracted not so much by Chinese 
character as by Chinese culture, art, history, language. Though it was 
disillusioning to get too close to the Chinese, I do like them funda- 
mentally. They have great vitality, humor, individualism, adaptability, 
no spiritual pretenses, definitely materialistic, a capacity to work things 
out. I rather like this. But their shrewd opportunism is more obtrusive 
now in my thinking. I hear from Chinese now when they want some- 
thing. They always look out for Number i. I'm getting older and I 
tend to be impatient these days, but my impatience is like that of a 
member of a large family in trouble . . . 


or else suffers his nostalgia sadly: 

It is hard to answer in general, there were so many different indi- 
viduals. But I liked the Chinese in sum, admired many of them, en- 
joyed being among them. I was at ease among them except in times of 
political stress, like now, because their personal attitudes and actions 
would be affected by the general political situation. But I think of their 
sense of humor persisting under difficult circumstances, of personal 
relations based on a whole system of life and the art of survival, of 
resilience in situations like the Chungking bombings, of the ability to 
enjoy life in the most unpromising circumstances, of gusto, of a tend- 
ency to dramatize and to live by the rules of the game, especially the 
game of life in public. On the other hand, I think of callousness and 
brutality about human life and suffering, of the ease with which prin- 
ciples can be compromised, of the lack of inner guiding motivations or 
ideals. . . . My young son now hears and reads about the "terrible 
Chinese/' We try to tell him. . . . 

After these testimonials, coming from two individuals who had 
each spent decades of his life in China, it would almost seem that 
a third, a journalist, was not far wrong when, as a result of brief 
tours in China during and just after the Second World War, he 
concluded: "All the cliches I'd ever heard about the Chinese seemed 
to be true." 

Let us look more closely now at some of these "cliches" and try 
to see how and when they came to be held. 


THE IDEA THAT the Chinese are a superior people is connected in 
many minds with the powerful image of China's ancient civiliza- 
tion, its great age and its aged greatness. From 102 of the 181 mem- 
bers of our panel came recurring mention of 

China's ancient and great culture; a beautiful, wonderful, cohesive 
culture; its great civilization; a bond of ancient traditions; a culture 
devoted to the arts and sciences; an aesthetip, artistic style of life, un- 
altered through the centuries; exquisite, stylized poetry, paintings; have 
great respect for Chinese art, for Chinese thought, Chinese architec- 
ture, customs, mores. . . . 


These historic attributes rub off frequently onto the people them- 
selves. Thus the Chinese are 

an artistic, highly cultured people; they have a deep attachment to an 
old ethical system; the wise old Chinese; a great and noble race; a 
people highly cultured for many centuries; the outstanding inhabitants 
of Asia; the Chinese equal and exceed Americans in culture and edu- 
cation; their civilization is more humanistic than ours; they are ahead 
of us in many ways. . . . 

The transfer from culture to people is strikingly often accompanied 
by a shift in tense: China was a land of great culture, the Chinese 
are a highly cultured people. Because in so many visible forms the 
"old" China persisted so long into modern times, because so many 
Chinese are viewed as the heirs and carriers of this great past, or 
often simply because the Chinese are in any case the products of 
such an impressively long history, the feeling of respectful admira- 
tion is maintained, frequently without any clear placement in time. 
This image of China's admirable antiquity gained currency quite 
early in the history of our own civilization, and it is acquired, in 
no matter how fragmentary a form, quite early in each of our own 
lives even now. The impression is widely held. It is shared by many 
who can go on to specify it in great and learned detail and by many 
more who may have little more than the bare notion itself, rein- 
forced only by the schoolbook versions of the Marco Polo story 7 
and the information that the Chinese had invented such things as 
paper, movable type, the compass, porcelain, gunpowder, and had 
great sages, poets, and artists long before Western man had civ- 
ilized himself. The stream of this impression is fed by many rivulets. 
Some individuals recalled, always with a glow of pleasure, reading 
Chinese folk tales, like those to be found in the Book of Knowledge 
or in many anthologies and storybooks still widely read by children. 
It is from these storybooks, and sometimes from school geographies, 
that most people learn to recognize the shapes of Chinese architec- 
ture or the conventional figure of a Chinese sage. The words fine 
and exquisite are almost invariably associated with the examples of 

7 An NBC-TV "spectacular" based on the Marco Polo story (May 15, 1956) 
had a sequence in which Marco Polo spends a year in exhaustive and exhausting 
study of the most abstruse subjects. At the end of the year he says that he has 
now acquired the knowledge normally possessed in China "by any nine-year-old 


Chinese art that abound around us in so many museum collections, 
the bronzes, jades, ivories, porcelains, paintings, scrolls, rich silks, and 
tapestries, all marvelously old. The feeling of consummate delicacy 
is attached to fine chinaware, and the same words and values recur 
constantly where Chinese motifs in decoration and fashions occur. 
These impressions live side by side with a host of others, a good 
deal less respectful, a good deal more rejecting, suspicious, even con- 
temptuous and hostile. But they are hardly ever wholly absent from 
any single person's mind when he thinks of China. They manage 
somehow to color or qualify every view. They add a certain dimen- 
sion to every outlook on China and a certain stature to every ob- 
served individual Chinese. Thus when some people remarked that 
the Chinese they had met gave them an impression of 

a proud sense of superiority, pride of race, great self-respect . . . 

they did so approvingly, or at least with acceptance. As far as they 
were concerned, the Chinese who had this attitude were quite en- 
titled to it. 

I see the Chinese as having a certain nonassimilable stability, and 
this comes from their sense of superiority. I used to think the British 
and the Chinese were the two peoples most sure of the integrity of 
their own conditioning and their own society. Not arrogant, just a 
strong sense of superiority. 

Only one individual in the whole panel saw it differently: 

They are arrogant. They have the biggest superiority complex I know. 

The qualities that are admired or respected in the Chinese are 
often most directly related to the impression of China's antique 
wisdom, its powerfully surviving traditions, a system of ideas that 
were old long before the Christian era began. This is the setting in 
which we often find 

Confucius, Lao Tze; the scholar-philosophers and philosopher-states- 
men; bearded sages, patriarchs, scholars; a scholar-run nation; tradi- 
tional reverence for the scholar; the idea of wise old scholars, that 
scholars come first, soldiers last . . . 

"Confucius" may be for some a scratch left on the mind by Earl 
Derr Biggers' magazine and movie character, the detective Charlie 
Chan, and what he said Confucius said. But there are many indi- 
viduals in our panel whose scholarly or religious interests have led 


them to some acquaintance with Chinese thought or who have 
ideas about the way Chinese think. The extent of their knowledge 
and the depth of their interest varies widely, but almost invariably 
they describe Chinese thought or the Chinese way of thinking as 

pragmatic, rationalist, orderly, serene, sophisticated, empirical, non- 
doctrinaire, nonabstract, sagacious, humanistic, sharp, inquisitive, 
clear, commonsensical. . . . 

These are all qualities of intellect, mind, and outlook which gen- 
erally enjoy a high value in American culture. When they are per- 
ceived in Chinese encountered by Americans interested in such 
things, they establish at least one strong basis for quick affinity. 
This holds equally for certain other features of the Chinese tra- 
dition and its required patterns of behavior. The strength and co- 
hesiveness of the Chinese family was admiringly mentioned by 49 
people, along with scattered salutes to Chinese filial piety, respect 
for the aged, admiration for learning, and the talent for art and 
good workmanship. 

One of the strongest ideas also attached to the notions of age 
and durability is the idea that China is 

unconquerable; more likely to absorb foreign influence than be taken 
over by it; often conquered but always retained the identity of their 
civilization; always absorbed their conquerors; have a unique capacity 
to survive and come back. . . . 

Those who think of recent events in China in terms of a Russian 
conquest appear to derive solace from this idea. Those who think 
the current changes in China arise out of a resurrected Chinese 
dynamism are a good deal less comforted by the conviction that China 
goes on forever. The "newer" or more "modern" China becomes, 
the greater the nostalgia that attaches itself for some to the "old" 
order of things. This has happened before, when foreigners faced 
with changes they regarded as inimical to their interests have be- 
come ardent defenders of the traditionalism which, at other times, 
they have deplored as a brake on Chinese progress. 

Among our panelists there were, to be sure, significant dissents 
from this general admiration for China's heritage. Several persons 
remarked in effect that the authoritarian character of Chinese society 
and its institutions established the basis for the passive acceptance 
of Communist totalitarianism by great masses of the Chinese people. 


Others felt a critical lack of spirituality in Chinese philosophy, re- 
ligion, and behavior. Another observed that while the Chinese tra- 
ditionally and theoretically despised the military man, every Chinese 
dynasty was in fact founded by a soldier or at least by force of 
arms, and that the greatest curse of modern China, before the Com- 
munists, was the war lord. Only a small number (9) said they saw 
Chinese traditionalism as a vast burden which Chinese in modern 
times have had to bear to their great detriment, but a larger num- 
ber (32) observed that Chinese tradition was responsible for 

lack of national, civic responsibility in Chinese; lack of social conscious- 
ness; lack of ability to organize themselves politically; they don't give a 
damn who runs the country as long as their own affairs are intact or 
they have enough to eat; family obligations displaced obligations to the 
community. . . . 

Both the enthusiasm for Chinese civilization and the dissent from 
it have a long history in the West, going back well beyond the be- 
ginnings of the American republic. For more than a century before 
the first American clipper ships sailed to China, Europe had been 
delighting itself with the chinoiseries introduced by the merchant- 
adventurers who had followed in the path of Marco Polo. Chinese 
silks, dyes, porcelains, paints, and pigments had a high vogue. 
Chinese costumes appeared at masqued balls, Chinese themes in 
dramatic spectacles, Chinese magical tricks and jugglers in the com- 
mon entertainments. Chinese pavilions appeared in the gardens of 
the rich and the royal, at Versailles, Potsdam, and elsewhere, 
Chinese decor in the mansions of the mighty, a mode adopted in 
this country a little later and persisting into our own time. 8 The 
extremes of sinophilic faddism and sentimentalism in that day as 
well as in a much later one drew the light of scorn of more sophisti- 
cated minds. Goethe in 1796 wrote a poem called "The Chinaman 
in Rome" in which he scoffed: 

Behold the type of many a moon-struck bard, 
Who vaunts his tissue, woven of a dream, 

8 Looking into the "pleasure gardens' 7 of old New York for the New Yorker 
(November 10, 1956), Robert Shaplen discovered that "one of the earliest, 
dating from 1793, was a vauxhall decorated in Chinese style . . ." With a report 
of a charity-fund-raising tour of palatial homes in and near New York, the New 
York Times, May 13, 1956, published photos of the "Chinese dining room" in 
one of them and of one pleased hostess sitting "before a Chinese panel in her 


'Gainst nature's tapestry, that lasts for aye, 
Proclaims as sick the truly sound; and this, 
That he, the truly sick, may pass for sound. 9 

The youthful Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1824: 

I laugh at those who while they gape and gaze 
The bald antiquity of China praise. 10 

But chinoiseries apart, both Goethe and Emerson, like a great 
number of leading thinkers and writers of the Enlightenment dur- 
ing the whole preceding century, took China very seriously indeed. 
The impact of ideas from and about China on the intellectual en- 
vironment of Europe from the late seventeenth through the 
eighteenth century was considerable. It was also characteristically 
controversial. Herrlee Creel has briefly reviewed this history 11 and 
its many confusions, the first glowing reports of the early Jesuit 
missions to China on Confucian ideas and the Chinese art of gov- 
ernment, the immense enthusiasm they aroused in people like Vol- 
taire, the Physiocrat Francois Quesnay, the constant use of the 
Chinese example in the great discussions, pro and con, on the na- 
ture of absolutism and freedom, the controversies that arose over 
the more critical views brought back from China by traders con- 
cerning the despotic and limited character of the Chinese regime. 
Indeed, the discussion was so wide and constant and prolonged that 
Creel finds it "probable that literate Occidentals knew more about 
China in the eighteenth century than they do in the twentieth." 
But his own account illustrates how much the knowledge of China 
in that time resembled that of our own in the violence and hyper- 
bole of controversy in a situation in which the facts were dim and 
long in coming into clearer view. In that time, as again more re- 
cently, disenchantment crushed the enchanted. The very emperor 
whom Voltaire had praised so extravagantly as an "example of tol- 
erance" turned out to be in fact "one of the greatest destroyers of 
literature (in the name of suppression of 'dangerous thought') in 
all history." Creel summarizes: 

9 Quoted by Thomas E. Ennis, "The Influence of China and Japan upon 
German Culture/' Eastern World (London), May, 1956. For other details see 
also his "Contributions of China to French Civilization/' Eastern World, May, 


10 Quoted by Arthur Christy, The Orient in American Transcendentalism, 
York, 1932, p. 125. 

11 Confucius, The Man and the Myth, New York, 1949, Chapter XV. 


Chinese philosophy was introduced to Europe by the Jesuits. They 
reported chiefly cm what they considered best, the ideas of Confucius. . . . 
Being rationalist in temper and tending in a democratic direction, this 
philosophy was hailed as a revolutionary gospel from another world. A 
little later, however, Europeans learned more about the later forms of 
Confucianism which . . . were in part a perversion of that philosophy 
designed to make it serve the purposes of monarchic authority. Simul- 
taneously it was emphasized that in fact the government of China, which 
had been so highly praised, had at least many of the characteristics of a 
despotism; indeed some of its very champions hailed it as such. It was 
concluded that the virtues of Confucius and of Chinese government had 
alike been inventions of the Jesuits, perpetrated for purposes of propa- 
ganda. At this time the Jesuit order became so thoroughly discredited 
that in 1773 . . .it was dissolved by the Pope. Disillusionment became 
complete; the "Chinese dream" was over. Never again in the West, since 
the end of the i8th century, has interest in China and esteem for that 
country risen so high. 12 

Never again was disillusionment so complete and interest so high, 
that is, until recently, for almost anyone can make in this passage 
his own substitutions to make it read like a summary of the way in 
which this history repeated itself after 1950. 

But during that earlier, longer, less volcanic time, some very im- 
portant American minds indeed were scratched with ideas relating 
to China, including that awe and envy of Chinese civilization which 
so widely permeated the writings of the period. In the salutatory in- 
troduction to the first volume of the American Philosophical So- 
ciety founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1768, this passage occurs: 

Could we be so fortunate as to introduce the industry of the Chinese, 
their arts of living and improvements in husbandry, . . . America might 
become in tkne as populous as China. . . , 13 

Franklin and Jefferson, it is suggested, were strongly influenced by 
the Physiocratic ideas which Quesnay himself had declared to be 
nothing but "a systematic account of the Chinese doctrine, which 
deserves to be taken as a model for all states/' Jefferson, says Creel, 
was especially interested in that feature of Quesnay's thought which 
bore on the need of the state to promote agriculture. Later, whether 
by direct borrowing from China or not, Jefferson became the leading 

12 Creel, op. cit. y p. 263. 

13 Quoted by Kenneth Latourette, The History of Early Relations Between 
the United States and China, New Haven, 1917, p. 124. 


advocate of the selection of a "natural" aristocracy to hold govern- 
ment office. When the British civil service system was established 
with some evidence of the direct influence of the model of the 
Chinese examination system and the American government even- 
tually followed suit, Emerson was there to point out how long China 
had been in preceding us in this matter. Emerson read with delight 
in the Chinese classics as they became available in European trans- 
lations and drew upon them to illustrate his own ideas about the 
gentlemanly proprieties, the ethics of individual and social be- 
havior, morality in politics, and the mutual responsibility of men in 
the manner of the interacting parts of the mechanism of a watch. 14 
But these first glowing images cast abroad by China's arts and 
ideas were kept only fitfully alive in Emerson's pages and in the 
continuing interests of a few scholars. For the Age of Respect was 
passing. The whole basis of intercourse between the West and 
China was changing. The century of Western assault had begun. 
Having failed to breach Chinese isolation by respectful propitiation, 
the Europeans came now as men of force intent upon breaking it 
down. In 1839, Great Britain began the first of a series of wars in 
China in the course of which China's power and integrity began to 
be stripped from her; by 1860, the foreigner was imposing himself 
almost at will. In the same years a small band of Christian evan- 
gelists from Britain and the United States undertook to storm the 
ancient bastions of Chinese religion and morality; the missionary 
movement followed the traders and the flag. These circumstances 
drastically altered relationships and images. There was no respect 
in the men of power for the weaklings who buckled before them, 
and none in the men who saw themselves as men of God for those 
whom they saw as utterly godless. The conception of China's ancient 
greatness did not die, it was simply submerged. The Chinese of the 
nineteenth century came to be viewed in the main by Westerners 
as inferior people, as victims and subjects, sources of profit, objects 
of scorn and pity, and ultimately, by the Americans, as wards. 

14 Christy, passim, especially pp. 6, 125, 138 ff, 159. 



IN THEIR CURRENT feelings about the Chinese, most of our panelists 
are moving uncertainly somewhere between admiration and fear, 
trying to preserve the distinction between the objects of these two 
emotions. At neither end of the scale is there much room for ideas 
of the Chinese as inferior people, for they are dominated alike by 
a strong sense of Chinese vitality and capacity. Yet notions of the 
Chinese as lesser men lie not too far below the surface. The Chinese 
were submerged too long, the habit of patronizing them was too 
old and too strong whether in kindly fashion or contemptuous 
for these ideas to have disappeared entirely. And woven oddly close 
to all the strands in this pattern that have made for contempt are 
those that make for fear. They all still form part of the patchwork 
of images that fill our minds. 

WEAKLINGS: In a few cases (14) all of them individuals with 
little or no actual contact with the Chinese the idea of Chinese 
weakness clearly survives. They saw the Chinese as 

nonaggressive; inert; submissive; servile; passively accept things; slow; 
cannot solve their own problems; couldn't defend their country against 
the white man or the Japanese; never used their resources to become 
a modern nation like Japan; don't have any fighting spirit, being 
"yellow" means being afraid. . . , 15 

The image of the Chinese as weaklings does not get much support 
from recent events. It tends to be held by people whose contact 
is too slight to budge impressions deeply anchored in the past, or by 
some who see reinforcement for their notion in the weak submis- 
sion of the Chinese masses to the Russian-provided and therefore 
"un-Chinese"- strength of the Communists. The notion of Chinese 
weakness is also the idea at the root of the belief that a "show of 
force" will suffice to deal with any problem the Chinese raise for us 
or, put another way, that force is the only thing the Chinese will 

15 "Yellow" as a symbol for fear or cowardice does not appear to be derived 
from connection with the Chinese or any other Asian source. According to the 
dictionaries, this use of the word goes back about 100 years in this country, but 
its origin dates back to older European medical folklore about a disease, perhaps 
jaundice, which turned the skin yellow and produced weakness and debilitation. 


respect. This Is of course doctrine that is by no means peculiarly 
applied to the Chinese; it still governs in almost all important inter- 
national affairs. It has been a central tenet in the creed of empire 
from the beginning, has been applied in many times and places, and 
was, along with the weapons provided by a more advanced technol- 
ogy, the pillar on which Western power rested for so long in Asia 
and Africa. It required only the presence of a small and self-confident 
force of Westerners well tooled for war, and a large, docile, and 
unself-confident non- Western population without comparable means 
of retaliation. Out of the many successes of this nineteenth century 
formula rose the strongly stereotyped notion, so current in the West- 
ern world until only yesterday, that the European was uniquely en- 
dowed to rule and the non-European to submit. 

The Chinese became part of this pattern from the time that small 
British and allied European forces successfully humbled the great 
Celestial Empire beginning just about a century ago. With the first 
victory by a small British expedition in the Opium War of 1839-40, 
the great prestige of the Chinese came tumbling down. 

A sudden revulsion of feeling took place [writes a major American his- 
torian of the period] and from being respected and admired, China's utter 
collapse before the British arms and her unwillingness to receive Western 
intercourse and ideals led to a feeling of contempt. . . . Contrasting their 
old ideas of her greatness with their sudden discovery of her weakness, 
the impression spread through America and Europe that China was de- 
cadent, dying, fallen greatly from her glorious past. 16 

The Age of Respect ended then and there and the Age of Con- 
tempt began. Thereafter Chinese recalcitrance was punished by mili- 
tary force: this was the beginning of the "gunboat era" and the 
"unequal treaties." By helping to crush the most serious of the 
rebellions that rose against the Manchu Dynasty in the next two 
decades, the Powers reduced the Chinese regime to helpless de- 
pendence upon them. China itself was torn at like a prostrate car- 
cass, and by the end of the nineteenth century, under great predatory 
swoops upon its territory and its governmental authority, it appeared 
to be on the verge of total dismemberment. The Chinese who fig- 
ured in this history were, in the eyes of most Westerners, supine, 
helpless, and almost beyond pity. 
This was history that Americans especially had need to rationalize. 

16 Latourette, The History of Early Relations Between China and the United 
States, pp. 124-125. 


They eventually accomplished this, as we shall see, by the elaborate 
structure of guardianship, benevolent purpose, sympathetic good 
will, and high moral intent that still surrounds the American self- 
picture in relation to China and the Chinese. But it was also 
achieved more obscurely by many people in quite another way,, by 
the belief that the people who thus allowed themselves to be im- 
posed upon hardly deserved any better fate, that they were, indeed, 
hardly people at all. One of the principal mechanisms of this process 
was the concept of the faceless mass. 

THE FACELESS MASS: The one thing everybody knows about the 
Chinese is that there is a fantastically large number of them. In the 
interviews the key phrases, recurring again and again, were: 

teeming masses, seething, tremendous, huge, great, vast masses; enor- 
mous, dense, tremendous population; people living in droves; too many 
of them; an awful lot of them; thousands per square mile; so numerous 
nobody can swallow them; amorphous mass of humanity; a mass of 
jelly; a large, faceless mass. . . . 

Of the 55 panelists who summoned up these images, only 5 were 
people who had lived in China. The impression seemed to be pri- 
marily one of an undifferentiated mass in which the individual is 
completely obliterated, a vast agglomeration of beings without iden- 
tities. This blurred image is plainly and commonly expressed in the 
cliche: "You can't tell one Chinese [or one "Oriental"] from an- 
other/' When it is endowed with hostile vigor and motion, this 
great indistinguishable mass becomes one of the most fearful of all 
the projected images, the barbarian hordes sweeping all before them 
by sheer numbers and rapacity, an image never wholly absent from 
the minds of Western men since the time of Genghiz Khan and 
fearfully re-evoked for a great many in the time of Mao Tse-tung. 
But for most of the time with which we are concerned, and for most 
of our panelists, the image of this mass is marked by its passivity and 
by its poverty, its incredible, unbelievable, incomprehensible poverty. 
Thus in our interviews the Chinese were seen (by 67) as 

a vast, hungry people; millions dying; misery, disease, beggars, skinny 
kids, destitution, wretched squalor; scrambling for garbage thrown from 
the ship; hunger, starvation, illiteracy, ignorance, superstition. . . . 

The Americans of our panel are with few exceptions people aware 



of poverty only at the seldom-seen margins of their own society. 
But even this poverty bears small resemblance to the conditions that 
pervade most of Chinese life, either as they have observed it 7 heard 
about it, or seen it pictured. The reaction of such Americans to such 
poverty can and does vary widely, but it almost always includes 
something of shame and even more of revulsion. The American 
visitor to the rural or urban slums of China (or, for that matter, of 
India, of Egypt, or of any grossly crowded, grossly poor land) has 
the air and the feeling of a visitor to some other planet many light 
years away from his own, with inhabitants plainly belonging to a 



(Based on U.S.Army M&vcHing regulations) 

Riple/s Believe It Or Not, Simon & Schuster, 1929-31-34 


race of beings quite other than his own. If he remained in this set- 
ting by need or by choice, he usually adapted himself to it by accept- 
ing the vast difference between his conditions of life and those of 
the people around him as part of some natural order. He might 
find in the mode and manner of Chinese acceptance of these cir- 
cumstances the basis for a guilty kind of admiration, for no ordinary 
people could adapt so cheerfully to such conditions. But more com- 
monly, the constant confronting of his own well-being by this mas- 
sive deprivation would lead him in some measure to downgrade or 
even to deny the humanity of the amorphous, jellylike mass among 
whom he passed his privileged way. For those who held this image 
of crowded Asian poverty from afar, there was hardly any problem. 
The sheer elements of size, numbers, and distance were almost 
enough in themselves to spur the dehumanizing process. 

ABSENCE OF NERVES": To endure inhuman conditions re- 
quires inhuman powers of endurance. There is a vast lore about the 
Chinese in this respect. They are pervasively and almost uniquely 
held to be capable of putting up with any hardship, enduring any 
pain, and living on less than any ordinary human being. 

An early systematic statement of this special Chinese attribute 
occurs in the observations of Arthur H. Smith, the missionary author 
of the famous work, Chinese Characteristics, published in 1894. 
Smith titled one of his chapters "The Absence of Nerves," in which 
he declared that if the Chinese do have nerves like any other human 
being, "nothing is plainer than that they are nerves of a very dif- 
ferent sort from those with which we are familiar." Chinese can 
stand in one position all day, sleep anywhere in any posture, need no 
air. Overcrowding is their "normal condition" and "they do not ap- 
pear to be inconvenienced by it all." They have a remarkable ability 
"to bear without flinching a degree of pain from which the stoutest 
of us would shrink in terror." After citing numerous examples of 
this, Smith concluded: "The Chinese are and must continue to be 
to us more or less a puzzle, but we shall make no approach to com- 
prehending them until we have settled firmly in our minds that, as 
compared with us, they are gifted with the 'absence of nerves/ " 1T 

Following Smith, the American sociologist E. A. Ross, traveling 
in China in 191 1, took the evidence of missionary doctors about the 

17 Chinese Characteristics, pp. 90-94. 


remarkable recuperative powers of the Chinese in situations which, 
they averred, would have indubitably ended in death for any Euro- 
pean. Ross concluded that the Chinese had "a special race vitality" 
owing to "longer and severer elimination of the less fit, 7 ' acquiring 
thereby a special "resistance to infection and tolerance of unwhole- 
some conditions of living/' 18 Ross' effort to explain these circum- 
stances by the natural process of selection was a good deal less 
exciting to the imagination than the idea of "nervelessness" which 
seeped into a great many capillaries of the American system for the 
circulation of ideas. In Race Attitudes in Children, published in 
1929, Bruno Lasker quoted from a contemporary detective story 
magazine a passage which described the unbelievable capacity of a 
certain midget to take in alcohol and which then explained: 

In the case of a white man, such indulgence might have caused sensa- 
tional results. The midget, though, was Chinese, which means that his 
nerves were not highly organized that he was virtually immune to 

Lasker also quoted from a popular camping manual for boys, dated 
1921, in which the author discussed nature's power to adapt animal 
life to the environment, and after speaking of "certain vertebrates, 
such as the mud turtle and hellbender," goes on, in direct though 
unacknowledged borrowing from Arthur Smith: 

And there is the Chinaman, who being of a breed that has been 
crowded and coerced for thousands of years, seems to have done away 
with nerves. He will stand all day in one place without seeming in the 
least distressed; he thrives amidst the most unsanitary surroundings; over- 
crowding and bad air are as nothing to him; he does not demand quiet 
when he would sleep nor even when he is sick; he can starve to death 
with supreme complacency. 19 

Such notions seemed to be needed to explain away the capacity 
of the Chinese to adapt himself to incredibly adverse circumstance. 
This capacity, which became for some the basis for great admiration 
of the Chinese, was seen by others as a quality akin to that of the 
dumb animal who knows no better, for they could not relate it to 
what seemed to them more comprehending and more comprehensi- 
ble behavior of human beings. Something like this was required 
over the years to exorcise the reality of hardship in China, to make 

18 The Changing Chinese, New York, 1920, p. 42. 

19 Race Attitudes in Children, pp. 205, 207. 


it possible over many decades for American (and other Western) 
newspapers to report the deaths of thousands and sometimes mil- 
lions of people in Chinese famines, floods, and droughts, and to do 
so in obscure paragraphs seldom exceeding a few lines in length. 
These ordinarily commanded little reaction or attention; a few 
million Chinese more or less in that great faceless mass could not 
seem humanly important, or could not be allowed to seem so. 

Experienced from afar, as it was by most people, this process of 
downgrading the humanity of the Chinese could take place casually 
and indifferently and could pass from person to person as invisibly 
as a virus. Certain retarded infants, for example, are called "Mongo- 
loids," a term said to have been adopted by a doctor in 1866 because 
he thought he saw "Oriental" characteristics in their faces, 20 An- 
other example is imbedded in the joke, current in the i93o 7 s, in 
which a Chinese receives successive battle reports: 1,000 Japanese 
and 5,000 Chinese killed; 5,000 Japanese and 20,000 Chinese killed; 
10,000 Japanese and 100,000 Chinese. The Chinese smiles gleefully 
at each new tiding. The surprised foreigner asks him why he is 
pleased, and the Chinese chortles: "Is fine! Pretty soon no more 

At closer quarters, the emotional effect of dehumanizing the Chi- 
nese is stronger and uglier. Essentially the same denial of human 
identity applied earlier to the American Indian and the Negro slave 
was made in relation to the Chinese in the mob violence against 
them in the iSyo's in California and elsewhere. It provided a ration- 
alization for the foreigners who perpetrated wanton atrocities on the 
Chinese in China on repeated occasions during the nineteenth cen- 
tury and later. During World War II, an army of young Americans 
abruptly transplanted to China was brought face to face, so to speak, 
with the faceless mass, with all the surrounding circumstances of 

20 Collier's Encyclopedia, New York, 1950, Vol. 14, p. 93. An interesting 
note on the subject appears in Science Digest, April, 1952, p. 64: "In facial ap- 
pearance they are strangely Oriental, an effect resulting from the broad, flat, pas- 
sive features. . . . The eyes are small and almond-shaped. It was this appearance 
that inspired the word 'Mongoloid' although many doctors now refer to such 
cases as 'ill-finished' or 'unfinished/ " This might have been a retarded reaction 
among medical men to the wartime changes in popular images which made 
"mongoloid" sound inappropriate. A medical report on the subject summarized 
in the New York Times, September 15, 1956, uses the terms "mongolism" and 
"mongoloid" quite unself-consciously. On December 13, 19 54, a liberal radio 
news commentator, John Vandercook, spoke in a broadcast of "Russia's mon- 
strous Mongoloid baby, Communist China." 


poverty and harshness and cruelty in Chinese life. Of the young 
soldier in this experience, I wrote: 

His initial reaction of shock, pity, perhaps even indignation, usually 
soon dissolved. He got used to it, as you get used to the smell of a stock- 
yard. He had to live with it, adapt himself to it. He found it increasingly 
difficult to look upon these Asiatics as men and women. Only some 
subhuman species cduld live as they did, submit as they did. You could 
not apply normal standards to your thinking about them. Pity usually 
gave way to indifference, impatience, contempt, even hatred. 21 

It is necessary to leave this point barely stated and not at all 
explored. I would suggest here only the thought that Western man 
and especially American man is haunted by the largely unheeded 
injunction to be his brother's keeper. Confronted by a stranger 
whom he perceives as a threat or as a victim, or faced with the 
human hardship of others about which he could or would do noth- 
ing, his only tolerable way out is to deny or at least to diminish 
the human quality of the enemy or of the suffering in view, to make 
the victim something less than his brother. This can be done by dis- 
tinguishing no individual victim at all in the great faceless mass, or 
transmuting him into a different kind of being with a different set 
of nerves, or no nerves at all, a person, in fact, who can "starve to 
death with supreme complacency/' a person who places so much 
lower a value on this life than we do that we cannot or dare not 
equate his life with one of our own. In short, to make him sub- 

THE CRUEL CHINESE: The inhuman powers of endurance attrib- 
uted to the Chinese are closely related to the idea that they are also 
inhumanly cruel. This association of cruelty with the Chinese is 
very literal, is often quite specific, and is not at all mythological or 

21 Harold R. Isaacs, No Peace For Asia, New York, 1947, p. 8. In this same 
setting, to a remark about the courage of Chinese soldiers in an obscure battle 
action, an American officer replied: "Courage? Do you say a mule has courage 
because he keeps on going until he drops?" Or again: "One American was describ- 
ing with some passion the course of operations across the river. They threw 
away 3,000 men/ he said, '3,000 men!' One of the others looked at him con- 
temptuously. 'So what?' he said, 'since when are you bleeding for 3,000 slopeys? 
They don't bleed about it, do they?' " (Ibid., p. 30-31.) Ordered not to use the 
term "Chinks," the American GI's in China quickly termed the Chinese "slopeys," 
from "slope-eyed" or, some say, from "slope-headed." This word took its place 
with "wogs" (Indians and Arabs) and "gooks" (any nonwhite "native") in the 
lexicon of the time. 


imaginary. It is an image that goes all the way back as an attribute 
of "Oriental character" to the barbarism of Genghiz Khan and his 
hordes. It is almost continuously present on the underside of all the 
more admiring images of China, ancient, old, or new. Dormant in 
years when more favorable views of the Chinese were dominant, it 
has more recently been brought into the foreground again by events 
both in China itself and in Korea during the Korean War. In our 
panel, 32 individuals mentioned it, including 7 who know China 
and the Chinese very well indeed. In varying contexts, they re- 
marked that the Chinese are or could be 

cruel, savage, ruthless, barbaric, ferocious, violent, brutal; have no 
regard for human life or suffering; life is cheap; they butcher large 
numbers of people; beheadings; tortures; would save a hat in a river 
but not a man; are insensible to soldiers* lives; are cruel and brutal to 
animals. . . . 

The way in which fresh events could activate old images was il- 
lustrated by the remark of an editor: 

I remember that when we heard of Japanese cruelties in China [at the 
time of the Sino-Japanese war] a friend of mine who had lived in China 
told me that when it comes to cruelty, the Chinese don't have to take les- 
sons from anybody. We are seeing some of this now in the Communist 
regime. . . . 

The emergence at the Hong Kong barrier of a missionary lady whose 
mind and body had been all but destroyed by five years in Chinese 
Communist prisons brought this comment in a broadcast by Eric 

Mrs. Bradshaw's blank, white face no longer bears any recognizable 
sign, save the seal of Communism, and perhaps the seal of the Orient as 
well. What the proportions of the two may be, no one can tell for sure. 
The Chinese Reds did not invent official Chinese indifference to human 
life; several thousand years of teeming misery and official tyrannies in 
various forms, under various names, is the deeper reason. No American 
who saw China before the Reds came in can have many illusions. He 
cannot forget the total official indifference to the famines and the floods; 
he cannot forget the sight of Chinese soldiers dying of sickness and starva- 
tion in the ditches as their officers dined in the nearest tea house. 22 

The term "Chinese torture" has a place in our language signifying 
22 Reprinted in The Reporter, January 12, 1956. 


devilishly ingenious methods of inflicting pain and death. While 
Chinese tortures may not actually be more devilish than those even 
more familiarly associated with medieval Europe, they appear to 
have had attached to them a quality of terrifying exquisiteness 
never quite achieved on the racks of the Inquisition. Images of the 
Chinese torturer and executioner had often been evoked in numer- 
ous early reports and scholarly works. 23 But they made their most 
vivid impact on a wider public during the events of the Boxer Re- 
bellion in 1900. In the popular press and along the more intimate 
channels of missionary-church communications passed vivid accounts 
and pictures of the descent of Boxer fanatics on foreign and Chinese 
Christians, of brutal killings and tortures, among them the celebrated 
"torture of a thousand cuts." Images of consummate and fearful 
evil were joined to those of the merely wicked or misled heathen, 
an evil not only ungodly but inhuman. On all who lived through 
these events or were touched by them, the scratches made were cut 
deep and were never afterward wholly effaced, although they were 
usually smoothed down over time by more benign experience. One 
member of our panel, a man who devoted his whole career to China 
and rose to prominent place in his field of work, called up almost at 
once the sensation of terror aroused by accounts of the Boxer time 
which he had read as a boy. The impression was so sharp that much 
later when as a young man he unexpectedly received word that he 
was to be sent to China, the vivid pictures he had seen in a Youth's 
Companion story rose to haunt his dreams and rose again, hardly 
any less vivid, in our interview thirty years after that. 24 

Many Americans, who in the following decades made China their 
second home and held a generally sympathetic view of the Chinese, 
tried often to "understand" the deep and broad streak of cruelty 
in Chinese life by relating it to the extreme harshness of the struggle 
for existence or by offering religious explanations for some of its 
manifestations. 25 For one or another of these reasons, they accepted 

23 Cf. S. Wells Williams, The Middle Kingdom, New York, 1883, Vol. I, 
p. 507. 

24 When we tracked it down, the story turned out to be 'The Cross and the 
Dragon," the date 1911. A passage: "His captors proceeded to extract informa- 
tion by means of such ingenious threats of torture that Jack begged: 'Don't say 
anything more, Wang Chou! . . . This talk of slicing him to death by inches 
gives me the cold shivers!" 

25 In her autobiography, My Several Worlds (New York, 1954), Pearl Buck 
deals with the oft-observed and oft-mentioned indifference of Chinese to the 


the fact that humanitarianism as Westerners understand it (i.e., 
Good Samaritanism ) is largely absent from Chinese social relations 
outside the boundaries of the family, and even to a considerable 
extent within it. But whatever the force of the rationalization, few 
could wholly "accept" the many evidences of common and sadistic 
violence, infanticide practiced on girl babies, the existence of slav- 
ery and the maltreatment of slaves and other dependents, the callous 
indifference to the fate of almost all human beings outside one's 
own most immediate circle. Nor could friendly understanding miti- 
gate the indisputable existence of torture in the Chinese penal sys- 
tem and the subjection to it of those who ran afoul of power, 
whether under the Communist regime, its Kuomintang predecessor, 
or the many other regimes which went before. 

Here again, however, the facets shine only when the lights hit 
them. The theme of cruelty in Chinese life is prominent in nine- 
teenth-century accounts and vivid at the Boxer time and for a few 
years thereafter. It then fades into the more disregarded shadows, 
rises only intermittently during the war-lord period, and all but dis- 
appears during the years 1937-45 when the images of "'Oriental 
cruelty" in most American minds were transferred from the Chinese 
to the Japanese. In a July, 1942, opinion poll 2Q only 3 per cent of 
the sample chose the adjective "cruel" to describe the Chinese, 
while 56 per cent applied it to the Japanese. Other characteristics 
were similarly transferred: only 4 per cent saw the Chinese as 
"treacherous" compared to 73 per cent for the Japanese, and only 8 
per cent called them "sly" compared to 63 per cent for the Japanese. 
It is certain that such a poll taken ten years later, at the height of 
the Korean War or at the time of the liberation of American pris- 
oners after the truce, would have disclosed the return of these 
images to their ancestral Chinese home. 27 The onset of Communist 

suffering or disaster that befalls others and explains that "the pervading atmos- 
phere of Buddhism through the centuries had persuaded the people generally to 
believe that fate pursued the sufferer, that his hour had come for death. If one 
saved him, thus defying fate, the rescuer must assume the responsibilities for the 
one saved." Again: "The cruelty to animals which shocks so many foreigners 
when they visit China" is explained by the belief that animals are reincarnated 
humans being punished for their wickedness in a previous life and therefore 
deserving only of contempt. 

26 Office of Public Opinion Research, July, 1942, in Cantril, Public Opinion, 
pp. 499, 501. 

27 The end of Japanese custody of the most evil and hateful of the "Orien- 
tal" images held by Americans was sanctioned from on high by Douglas Mac- 



terror and "persuasion" in China has clearly revived in full and grow- 
ing measure all the deeply latent images of cruelty and disregard for 
human life associated with the Chinese in many American mind$ 7 
suggesting a power of evil that is not merely inhumane but bestial, 
not human at all, but subhuman. 

Holland, Chicago Tribune, 1955 
New Images for Old 

Arthur in his speech to Congress, April 19, 1951, in which he spoke of the 
Japanese return to "individual liberty and personal dignity . . . political morality 
. . . and social justice" and their "profoundly beneficial influence over the course 
of events in Asia." Japanese thrift, enterprise, and acumen have been restored to 
high American regard, Japanese art exhibits draw admiring American audiences, 
and a visiting company of Kabuki dancers has scored a critical and popular tri- 

In a Hollywood publicity interview the actor Marlon Brando, back from 
making a picture in Japan, enthused: "I was terribly impressed with Japan. The 
people are the nicest I've ever met in rny life. They unquestionably are the most 
courteous, honorable, well-meaning, and self-respecting people . . . hypersensi- 
tively attuned to other people in their relationships." Boston Traveler, June 
29, 1956. 



IMAGES rooted in the American experience with Chinese in the 
United States itself are almost all images of the Chinese as an in- 
ferior people. On the Americans' own ground, the Chinese was dif- 
ferent, sometimes harmlessly but for long periods dangerously so. 
He was able sometimes to appear in American eyes to be only 
quaintly odd, but for a much longer time he was menacingly mys- 
terious. Even the industry and thrift so often attributed to him 
were qualities that became threatening, and the honesty with which 
he was also widely credited was largely canceled out by the more 
powerful notions of his deviousness and inscrutability. Only for the 
briefest intervals in his century-long history in this land has the 
Chinese in America enjoyed anything resembling the friendly ap- 
proval of his American neighbors or the admiration aroused in some 
Americans by his countrymen at home in China. 

Here are one man's boyhood recollections of the Chinese who 
lived in a small New Jersey town early in the century: 

The Chinese, of course, were by far the most foreign and outlandish. 
They ran laundries, no work for a man anyway, they had no families or 
children, they were neither Democrats nor Republicans. They wrote back- 
wards and upside down, with a brush, they worked incessantly night and 
day, Saturdays and Sundays, all of which stamped them as the most 
alien heathen. . . . We knew that they lived entirely on a horrible dish 
called chopsooey which was composed of rats, mice, cats, and puppydogs. 
We knew that the long pigtail that they wore at the time was their most 
cherished possession and ... if any foolish little white boy were to lay 
profane hands on one and give it a yank, the Chink would reach under 
the counter, draw out a razor-sharp cleaver which he kept there in readi- 
ness, and cut off your head as quick as a wink. . . . 

[Some older boys] were reputed to have flung open the doors of various 
laundries and tossed in dead cats, rats, or mice, escaping the dreaded 
cleavers by only a hair's breadth. . . . 

These do not happen to be the words of any member of our pres- 
ent panel, but when Robert Lawson, the writer and illustrator, set 
them down in his autobiography, 28 he was reproducing notions that 
recur often in some part in the memories of many of our inter- 
ns At That Time, New York, 1947, pp. 43-45. 


viewees. Lawson added that when he thought now of "the years 
of devoted service" and the "sweet and childish friendship" of the 
Chinese cooks he has had in his own home, it made him feel "very 
shamefaced and apologetic for that noisy little brat who used to 
taunt their countrymen." Since very few of our panelists ever had 
Chinese cooks in their homes, they could not quite match his 
amends, though they could often reflect the same unconsciously 
patronizing air. The mention of "Chinese" brought up in the minds 
of 82 of them a ^riety of associations with the Chinese in the 
United States. Many of these were quite simply laundrymen or 
restaurant men, familiar fixtures in so many American communi- 
ties, and in some minds these figures appeared attached to the same 
bits of childhood folklore reported by Lawson. They were, in these 
young eyes, 

evil; dangerous; they kidnapped children; engaged in white slave traffic; 
were always the villains in movies; strange; dreaded; they might cut 
you up; sinister; they ate jats; smoked opium. . . , 

A few remembered the rhyme they chanted: 

Chink, Chink, Chinaman, sitting on a rail, 

Along comes a white man and cuts off his tail. . . . 

They are perhaps too few in number to make a case out of, but it 
is still rather striking to note that the sharpest and most highly 
colored recollections of the most childishly cruel nonsense aimed at 
the Chinese appeared in the minds of half a dozen panelists who 
were themselves members of other minority groups, Jews, Negroes, 
Irishmen, who grew up in slums or near-slums close to those in 
which the Chinese ordinarily lived. These experiences and attitudes 
are, however, by no means confined to such settings. They occur in 
Midwestern backgrounds and in Western origins, where clear traces 
appear of the sinister and hated Chinese of the "Yellow Peril" period 
and even of the owlishly devious "heathen Chinee" of the Bret 
Harte epoch a generation earlier. 

Actually the Chinese in the United States has remained largely 
indeed, almost wholly a creature of stereotypes. He has rarely been 
anything else because intimacy or even close acquaintance between 
him and Americans has been rare. Only one panelist spoke of close 
Chinatown friendships and one other of an acquaintance with a 
restaurant proprietor in his city. Another mentioned Chinese school- 


mates with whom he had played in the schoolyard but rarely ever 
saw after school hours. Changes in this pattern have begun to take 
place, with the spread of Chinese- Americans into more varied spheres 
of American life, but these are quite recent and still uncommon. 
Only one panelist referred to a close professional colleague who hap- 
pened to be Chinese- American. 

From the beginning of Chinese immigration a century ago down 
to the present, the Chinese has essentially remained a sort of oddity. 
His high visibility has never permitted him to disappear into the 
stream of the population. His only escape from prejudice and hostil- 
ity was until recently to try to disappear by withdrawing as far as he 
could into his tiny little communities and into himself. He became, 
in the eyes of most of the Americans around him, a familiar curi- 
osity, in turn welcomed, patronized, mocked, feared, hated, lynched, 
excluded, ignored, tolerated, liked oddly feared or oddly admired, 
but scarcely ever known, understood, or simply accepted. Something 
of many or all of these reactions or the knowledge of them stirs in 
many an American's mind even today when out of the long history 
of associations, from the mining camps of California a hundred years 
ago to his own last visit to a Chinese restaurant, he plucks some 
fragment of information or of feeling. 

The story of the Chinese in this country is largely the story of the 
brutal bigotry of Americans. It has been much written, and there 
is neither need nor space to review its details here. It is our task, 
rather, to trace an outline through all this history of how the Chinese 
were viewed by the Americans among whom they came and espe- 
cially of how these images have shifted with time and circumstance. 

In the initial period, through the iSjo's and into the i86o 7 s, when 
the gold-hunters and empire-builders had no time for ordinary labor, 
the Chinese immigrants brought over by a contract system that 
amounted to helotry were soon being welcomed in California into 
every craft and service where the drudgery was greatest and the gain 
the least. They were greeted not only without hostility or race preju- 
dice but occasionally even with warmth. "Scarcely a ship arrives that 
does not bring an increase to this worthy integer of our population/' 
said the Daily Alia California on May 12, 1852. "The China boys 
will yet vote at the same polls, study at the same schools and bow 
at the same altar as our countrymen." 29 In this time of their great 

29 Quoted by Foster Rhea Dulles, China and America, New York, 1946, p. 79. 


usefulness, reports one study, the newcomers were generally de- 
scribed as 

the most worthy of our newly-adopted citizens, ... the best immigrants 
in California; . . . thrifty, sober, tractable, inoffensive, law-abiding, with 
all-around ability and adaptability. . . . 

But as white men kept swarming into the state and the prospects 
of quick wealth dimmed, and especially when the end of railroad 
building threw masses of both races into unemployment, the value 
of plain work rose. The Chinese had been quickly driven away from 
the mining of gold, but now the white man began to shoulder him 
out of the way in the service trades, manufacturing, and agriculture. 
Amid rising hostility, agitation, and mob violence, reaching peaks of 
arson, pillage, and murder during the depression years of the 1870% 
the Chinese became 

"a distinct people," "un assimilable/' "keeping to their own customs 
and laws." They "lowered the plane of living" . . . "shut out white 
labor." They were "clannish," "dangerous," "criminal," "secretive in 
their actions," "debased and servile," "deceitful and vicious," "inferior 
from a mental and moral point of view," "filthy and loathsome in their 
habits." . . . Every aspect of the invaders became unpleasant; their slant 
eyes bespoke slyness; their conversation among themselves frightful 
jabbering. . . . 30 

In 1868, Anson Burlingame, the American minister in Peking, had 
negotiated the nearest thing to a friendly treaty signed by any Power 
with the Chinese up to that time and in this pact had especially 
provided for encouragement of Chinese immigration into the United 
States. This was done at the spur of American employers who still 
wanted cheap Chinese labor. But the treaty was already being over- 
taken by events by the time it was signed. A wild clamor arose in 
California and elsewhere for exclusion of the Chinese. By 1876 both 
major political parties, anxious for California's votes, had adopted 
Chinese exclusion planks in their platforms. In 1879 a California 
vote on the exclusion issue ran 154,638 for and 883 against. Even 
as the rights of Americans in China were being enforced by arms 
when necessary and by the exercise of extraterritorial rights which 
placed foreigners in China above Chinese law, the American govern- 
ment moved to discriminate legally against the Chinese within its 

30 B. Schrieke, Alien Americans, New York, 1936, pp. 11-12. 


own borders. A new treaty exacting Chinese consent and correcting 
Burlingame's "mistake" was signed in 1880. In 1882, the Congress 
passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first of its kind in the coun- 
try's history, and hardened and extended it by subsequent legislation 
during the next several decades. 31 In all the fine blur of benevolence 
which shrouds so much of the American self-image in relation to 
China, it is seldom remembered that the first antiforeign boycott 
ever mounted in China arose, in 1905, in protest against American 
exclusion and the brutal treatment of Chinese in America. 

The images and the shame and some of the anger and the irony 
of these events can be found in the pages of both Bret Harte and 
Mark Twain. Among our panelists the best-remembered and the 
most often quoted lines from Harte were, of course: 

That for ways that are dark 

And tricks that are vain, 

The heathen Chinee is peculiar. . . . 

Harte's portrait of the Chinese was usually of an incomprehensible, 
pidgin-English-speaking character whose apparent silly stupidity 
cloaked a devious and wily and guileful shrewdness. But no member 
of our panel appeared to remember the sharper edge of Harte's 
vignettes. "Dead, my reverend friends, dead," he wrote in his 
obituary of Wan Lee, "stoned to death in the streets of San Fran- 
cisco, in the year of grace 1869, ^7 a mo ^ ^ half-grown boys and 
Christian school children." Or, again, of a Chinese making a journey 
in California: 

On the road to Sacramento, he was twice playfully thrown from the 
top of the stagecoach by an intelligent but deeply intoxicated Caucasian, 
whose moral nature was shocked at riding with one addicted to opium- 
smoking. At Hangtown he was beaten by a passing stranger purely an 
act of Christian supererogation. At Dutch Flat he was robbed by well- 
known hands from unknown motives. At Sacramento he was arrested on 
suspicion of being something or other and discharged with a severe repri- 
mand possibly for not being it, and so delaying the course of justice. 
At San Francisco he was freely stoned by children of the public schools, 
but by carefully avoiding the monuments of enlightened progress, he at 

31 There is a large literature on this subject. One work especially rich in con- 
temporary source materials and with an extensive bibliography is Elmer C. Sand- 
meyer, The Anti-Chinese Movement in California, Illinois Studies in the Social 
Sciences, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, 1939. 


last reached, in comparative safety, the Chinese quarter where his abuse 
was confined to the police and limited by the strong arm of the law. 32 

In an essay called "John Chinaman," Harte wrote that he thought 
he saw 

an abiding consciousness of degradation a secret pain of self-humiliation 
in the lines of the mouth and eye. . . . They seldom smile, and their 
laughter is of such an extraordinary and sardonic nature so purely a 
mechanical spasm, quite independent of any mirthful attribute that to 
this day I am doubtful whether I ever saw a Chinaman laugh. 

And he concluded: 

From the persecutions of the young and old of a certain class, his life 
was a torment. I don't know what was the exact philosophy that Con- 
fucius taught, but it is to be hoped that poor John in his persecution is 
still able to detect the conscious hate and fear with which inferiority 
always regards the possibility of even-handed justice, and which is the 
key note to the vulgar clamor about servile and degraded races. 33 

Among his newspaper pieces in 1870, Mark Twain included a 
series of imaginary letters in which a Chinese immigrant bitingly 
describes his expectations and his experiences in "that noble realm 
where all are free and all are equal 7 ' and where he was robbed, 
beaten, set upon by dogs, reviled, arrested, and when he could not 
produce money for a bribe was thrown by his captor into a cell with 
the words: "Rot there, ye furrin spawn, till ye lairn that there's no 
room in America for the likes of ye or your nation." 34 In Roughing 
It, he gave his views both of the Chinese and of their persecutors: 

They are a harmless race when white men either let them alone or 
treat them no worse than dogs; in fact, they are almost entirely harmless 
anyhow, for they seldom think of resenting the vilest insults or the 
cruelest injuries. They are quiet, peaceable, tractable, free from drunken- 
ness, and they are as industrious as the day is long. A disorderly China- 
man is rare and a lazy one does not exist. . . . He is a great convenience to 
everybody even to the worst class of white men, for he bears most of 
their sins, suffering fines for their petty thefts, imprisonment for their 

32 Selected Stones of Bret Harte, New York, 1946, pp. 148151. 

S3 Bret Harte, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches, Boston, n.d., 
pp. 242, 246-247. 

34 F. L. Patee, Mark Twain, Selections with Bibliography, New York, 1935, 
pp. 98-104. 


robberies, and death for their murders. Any white man can swear a 
Chinaman's life away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against 
a white man. Ours is the "land of the free" nobody denies that no- 
body challenges it. (Maybe it is because we won't let other people 
testify.) As I write, news comes that in broad daylight in San Francisco, 
some boys have stoned an inoffensive Chinaman to death, and that 
although a large crowd witnessed the shameful deed, no one inter- 
fered. . . . No Calif ornian gentleman or lady ever abuses or oppresses a 
Chinaman under any circumstances, an explanation that seems to be 
much needed in the East. Only the scum of the population do it they 
and their children; they, and naturally and consistently, the policemen 
and politicians, likewise, for these are the dust-licking pimps and slaves 
of the scum, there as well as elsewhere in America. . . , 35 

This was the era and these the events which introduced into our 
language the phrase "a Chinaman's chance" meaning no chance at 
all. 36 

Fleeing from this violence and, after the turn of the century, from 
the cry of "Yellow Peril" (aimed at the newly arriving Japanese and 
the Chinese both, lumped together as "Orientals"), many Chinese 
quit the Western states, settled elsewhere, and gradually established 
new refuges in the Chinatowns that sprang up in various cities 
around the country. 37 They sought safety in the trades where they 
might remain undisturbed laundries, restaurants, curio shops and 
in domestic service. They withdrew into the isolation of their own 
communities and, even more, into the supercaution of what the 
American saw as an unreacting expressionlessness. It was actually a 

35 Roughing It, New York, 1913, (originally published 1872), Chapter XIII. 

36 "Chinaman" is one of those terms whose derogatory quality rose out of the 
manner of its usage, for it was a product of the contemptuous attitudes of the 
nineteenth century. It was used by many quite explicitly in this spirit and echoed 
by many others quite unaware of its feeling-tone. As early as the 1890*5, Arthur 
Smith, author of Chinese Characteristics, was deploring the universal use of the 
term by writers about China. "John Chinaman/' generically applied to all 
Chinese, was an expression of the idea that all Chinese were "alike" and had no 
individual identities. It was widely used in this way in the United States, although 
"Chink" was the more direct and more violent epithet. In our panel of 181, no 
one used "Chink" and only 10 used "Chinaman." Of these 10, seven had never 
been to China, two had visited briefly, and one had somewhat more experience 
there as a businessman. Four of the 10 had generally negative views about the 
Chinese and came by the prejudiced term naturally. The other 6 simply did not 
know better. 

37 Cf. Rose Hum Lee, "The Decline of the Chinatowns in the United States," 
American Journal of Sociology, LIV, 5, March, 1949. 


great care not to become involved in matters that might draw the 
white man's attention to them. Hence the impressions noted by some 
10 panelists, that Chinese-Americans "know their place/ 7 and are 
'less venturesome intellectually," that they tended to "live in a 
closed society, to stay by themselves, to stand apart," and in a situa- 
tion of controversy on a college campus "avoided taking positions." 
Here too, in its own special place, belongs the observation of several 
Negro panelists that the Chinese docilely followed the white man's 
patterns in imposing Jim Crow restrictions on their restaurant clien- 

The Chinese defense against a hostile environment strongly 
reinforced the illusion of Chinese "inscrutability." The crowded, 
honeycombed Chinatowns themselves quickly also became dark 
places of mystery, sin, and crime in the popular magazines and, be- 
fore long, in the films. No evil was too devilish to be attributed to 
the Chinese villains who stalked their victims in dark alleys and 
through secret passages, who lolled with their opium pipes, smuggled 
drugs, slaves, prostitutes, or other Chinese, or hacked away at each 
other in the tong war versions of the crime-and-gangster themes that 
filled American screens during the igzo's. These films appear again 
and again in the recollections of our panel. Dorothy Jones lists a 
long series of them, all using common devices: 

The mystery of Chinatown was suggested by a whole series of visual 
cliches the ominous shadow of an Oriental figure thrown against a wall, 
secret panels which slide back to reveal an inscrutable Oriental face, 
the huge shadow of a hand with tapering fingers and long pointed finger- 
nails poised menacingly, the raised dagger appearing suddenly and unex- 
pectedly from between closed curtains. 38 

The dominant and by far the best-remembered figure from this genre 
of film and story was that most sinister and most evil of all men, 
Dr, Fu Manchu. The creature of an English writer using the pseudo- 
nym Sax Rohmer, Fu Manchu was quickly established as a public 
character in this country and enjoyed a great vogue, especially after 
he began appearing in a series of films starting in 1929. In the lan- 
guage of the Hollywood studio publicity material, Fu Manchu had 
"menace in every twitch of his finger, a threat in every twitch of his 
eyebrow, terror in each split-second of his slanted eyes." He was 
revengeful, merciless, adept at obscure forms of slow torture, a master 

38 Dorothy Jones, op. cit., p. 24. 


of unknown drugs, and the lord of a vast army of thugs and slaves 
ready to do his worst bidding. He was so evil that he periodically had 
to be killed off, and was so mysteriously superpowerful that he always 
miraculously reappeared in time for the next episode. Fu Manchu 
ultimately did die what seemed like a natural death in the years 
when the Chinese, as heroic fighters and allies in the war against 
Japan, commanded general sympathy. He has recently made another 
of his miraculous reappearances, trailing with all his absurdities in 
the wake of the more recently reviving and infinitely more somber 
images of dangerousness attached to the Chinese. 

The wry .paradox is that the more wicked the Chinatown locale 
was made to appear in the movies and pulps of the igzo's, the less 
wicked it became in fact. There was some real gang warfare in the 
Chinatowns but it was brought quickly to an end, continuing for 
years afterward only in the neighborhood movie houses. The China- 
towns became generally quiet places where the aura of evil and 
lurid melodrama was preserved for the vicarious titillation of visiting 
tourists who came out of curiosity and, more and more, to enjoy 
Chinese food. In the crowded world beyond the Chinatowns, hos- 
tility toward the Chinese was also dying away. In 1924 immigration 
bars, hitherto held only against "Orientals/ 7 had been raised against 
a good part of the world, including much of Europe. The bigot im- 
pulse had other targets Negroes, Jews, Italians, Eastern Europeans 
and for "Orientals" had the more newly-arriving Japanese to vent 
itself upon. The Chinese were so unresisting and so few in number 
that the image of them as evil and dangerous could be propped up 
only by the crude efforts of the Hollywood writers. The air of evil 
mystery remained, but it became pure mythology: not even the small 
boys really believed the laundryman kept a cleaver under his counter. 
The attribute of fearsome strangeness was beginning to give way 
and to be replaced by one of unfearful oddity. Social rejection con- 
tinued, but it was beginning, if not to give place, at least to share 
place with a certain friendly sympathy. 

A wide array of circumstances, not always by any means inter- 
related or tidily arrangeable into a pattern, fueled this process. One 
was the larger picture relating to China itself. China was in revolu- 
tionary upheaval in the 1920*5, foreign privileges there were threat- 
ened by new nationalist forces stronger than any known before. 
Along with anxiety over the new developments, there was also a new 
respect and even a certain sympathy for Chinese reassertion. In the 


United States this seemed to be reflected, in part at least, in a certain 
mitigation of the prejudice and hostility felt toward the local Chi- 
nese. In a paper she wrote as a graduate student at the University of 
Chicago in 1944, Dr. Rose Hum Lee traced the changing tone of the 
periodical press of this country, which began in this period to move 
away from the highly colored stories of slave and drug traffic and 
"tong" wars to friendlier efforts to describe Chinatown life. Dr. Lee, 
looking at home rather than abroad for the reasons, noted one turn- 
ing point in the sympathy for the Chinese aroused by police excesses 
in going after the "tongs." Rough handling of Chinese by police 
and courts touched off protests among liberals and in the press. It 
aroused that feeling for the underdog which can always make itself 
most effectively felt in our society when no important group or 
interest feels threatened. The first serious sociological study of the 
Chinese communities was made at this time, undertaken by Dr. 
Robert E. Park of Chicago and its findings summarized in a special 
issue of Survey Graphic in May 7 1926. Dr. Lee found that "even 
the Literary Digest, noted for its anti-Chinese sentiments, toned 
down/' She quoted from it part of a Chinese student's sardonic little 
list of American beliefs about the Chinese: 

The favorite delicacies of the Chinese are rats and snakes. 

The Chinese say yes for no and vice versa 

They eat soup with chopsticks. 

Chop suey and chow mein are their national dishes and that besides 

these dishes they eat nothing but rice. 
Chinese men wear skirts and women pants. 
A Chinaman never gets drunk. 
A Chinese is properly a Chinaman and that the word "Chinee" is 

singular for "Chinese." 
The Chinese are a nation of laundrymen yet have a highly developed 

civilization. ... 

All Chinese are cunning and crafty. 
All Chinese are honest and absolutely trustworthy. 
The Chinese never lose their tempers. 
The United States is the friend and protector of China. 
All Chinese look alike. 

The Chinese have no nerves and can sleep anywhere. . . 
They have no souls because they are not Christians. 
They never say what they mean and abhor straight lines. 
The Chinese invented pretty nearly everything that was ever invented. 
The Chinese all hate water and never bathe. 


They are a mysterious and inscrutable race and that they do every- 
thing backwards. 39 

Certainly one of the principal instruments and the most popular 
symbol of the shift from wily evil to wily virtue in the Chinese in 
America in this period was the fictional character of Charlie Chan, 
the famous Chinese detective. Inspired, it is said, by the exploits of 
a Chinese sleuth in Honolulu, Charlie Chan was introduced to the 
public by Earl Derr Biggers in 1925. He moved through the columns 
of the Saturday Evening Post, a raft of books, and no fewer than 48 
feature films, to the status of a national institution. Chan was the 
epitome of the "damned clever Chinese/' blandly humble in the face 
of Occidental contempt and invariably confounding all concerned by 
his shrewd solution of the crime. His aphorisms, always prefaced by 
"Confucius say ", passed into the national vernacular. His ap- 
proximations of Confucius were swelled by every man's wit into 
approximations of Charlie Chan. The formula required only some 
homely or humorous bit of real or alleged wisdom put into pidgin 
English, e.g., "Hasty conclusion easy to make, like hole in water/' 
or, "Theory, like mist on eyeglasses, obscures fact." As Mrs. Jones 
points out in her film study, Charlie Chan was still "the inscrutable 
Chinese of the mystery film," the man of few words, popping up 
unexpectedly and unseen, with a great power for slithering through 
complex situations, and unfathomable cleverness in plumbing mo- 
tives and coping with his foes. Only unlike Fu Manchu and his ilk, 
Charlie Chan was on the side of the law and virtue and was con- 
stantly winning friends and influencing people to take a new view of 
the Chinese. He was, in part, consciously intended to serve this end. 
The stock treatment of Chinese in American films had begun to 
draw protests from China, and Mrs. Jones quotes John Stone, the 
producer of the original Chan films at Fox Studios, as saying that 
the Chan characterization "was deliberately decided upon as a refuta- 

30 Literary Digest, March 12, 1927, quoted by Rose Hum Lee in "Social Atti- 
tudes Toward Chinese in the United States, Expressed in Periodical Literature 
from 1919 to 1944," Unpublished mss. 7 1944. Miss Lee interestingly did not 
note in her paper that this list of characteristics was published as one feature in 
a lengthy special section devoted to the events in China, opening with a photo- 
graph of Chinese nationalist soldiers with the caption: "Troops that have made 
the whole world wake up to New China." It also included a feature on the 
Chinese in the United States which observes that "these picturesque and enig- 
matic visitors acquire a new interest in our eyes because of the titanic and trans- 
forming forces that are astir in their native land/' 


tion of the unfortunate Fu Manchu characterization of the Chinese, 
and partly as a demonstration of his [Stone's] own idea that any 
minority group could be sympathetically portrayed on the screen 
with the right story and the right approach/ 7 40 

When pendulums of this kind swing among Americans they gen- 
erally swing high and wide. The circumstances of the late 1930'$ 
and early 1940*5 ticked out a highly favorable time for the Chinese 
as viewed through American eyes. The reasons lay mostly in China 
these were the years of the Sino-Japanese War, Pearl Harbor, and the 
emergence of the Chinese as our heroic allies. One result, for China, 
was the abrogation of the previous "unequal treaties" and the sur- 
render of extraterritoriality in a new treaty in 1943. In the same year 
the United States Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 
1882. A quota of 105 was established for "persons of Chinese an- 
cestry," the only surviving discrimination on entry based on race, 
as such. (All others are based on country of origin.) In the wartime 
atmosphere the Chinese in America began to bask, not to say blink, 
in a new kindliness. Just as the Chinese in China had found im- 
mensely popular interpreters in Pearl Buck and Lin Yutang, the 
American Chinatowns and their inhabitants achieved a new and 
unaccustomed glorification at the hands of a considerable body of 
eager writers headed by Carl Click, author of Shake Hands -with the 
Dragon (1941). Instead of the "tongs 77 whose members killed each 
other off with hatchets, the large Chinese community organizations 
were examined with interest as benevolent mutual help societies 
which kept Chinese off the relief rolls during the depression. China- 
town life became more than ever quaint, fascinating, and sentimen- 
tally attractive, and the Chinese themselves an incomparable people 
of unsurpassed virtue, so much so that Dr. Lee, writing in 1944, had 
to point out that this literature managed "to adorn the Chinese with 
a pair of wings and a halo!" And she added, acutely: 

As violently as the Chinese were once attacked, they are now glorified 
and mounted on a pedestal. It is impossible to predict how lasting this 
change will be. . . . Largely grounded on the sandy loam of sentimentality, 
one is left conjecturing what the tone of literature toward the Chinese 
will be in 1954. 

There is little direct evidence to show how far these more sym- 
pathetic images and attitudes were translated into more sympathetic 
individual or social behavior. The pioneering studies made by Emory 

40 Jones, op. cit., p. 34. 


Bogardus between 1924 and 1927 had shown that the Chinese were 
at the bottom of his social distance scales, sharing place there with 
other "non-white" peoples and with the Turks. 41 Several studies 
using a version of the Bogardus scale were conducted by Elmo Roper 
in 1942 and 1948. While the results cannot be compared directly or 
in detail to the Bogardus findings, they do strongly suggest that the 
social acceptability of the Chinese had been considerably enhanced 
in the intervening years. They shared in the general breaking down 
of bars in employment and occupation which resulted from the pres- 
sures of the war period. Roper's findings suggested that within a 
continuing pattern of considerable prejudice and discrimination, the 
Chinese in the war years became somewhat less unacceptable than 
Jews except as kin by marriage where the color factor was decisive. 
A national cross section of high school students questioned in the 
1942 Roper survey showed large indifference to what kinds of people 
they would share employment with, but 38 per cent said that a Chi- 
nese would be their last choice as a roommate (compared to 45 per 
cent for Jews and 78 per cent for Negroes ) and 78 per cent said they 
would not marry a Chinese (compared to 51 per cent for Jews and 
92 per cent for Negroes.) A national cross section of factory workers 
showed 28 per cent who would have least liked to see Chinese move 
into their neighborhoods (compared to 42 per cent for Jews and 72 
per cent for Negroes). 42 The 1948 study, based on a national cross- 
section sample of the whole population over twenty-one, suggested 
that the Chinese occupied a position in the American prejudice 
pattern roughly comparable to that of the Jews in all matters except 
marriage. In almost all of Roper's groupings of questions and cate- 
gories, the Chinese ended up in the middle position among eight 
groups named, behind Protestants, Catholics, Italians and Jews, 
and ahead of Filipinos, Mexicans, and Negroes. 43 

41 Emory S. Bogardus, Immigration and Race Attitudes, New York, 1928, p. 
2 5 and passim. 

42 Roper New York Herald Tribune and Fortune polls, November, 1942, in 
Cantril, Public Opinion, p. 477. 

43 Roper National 21 and over survey, September, 1948, from the Roper files. 
An excerpt from the gross findings on the total sample: 

Prefer NOT to have Chinese Jews Negroes 

as fellow-worker . . . 14.2% 13-2% 40.8% 

as neighbor .... 28.0 21.3 62.0 

as guest in home . . . 23.5 14.2 56.0 

as kin by marriage . . 64.0 45.8 78.9 

Some interesting details: Prejudice patterns were strongest in the South and Far 
West, less so in the Midwest, least noticeable in the Northeast. Far Westerners 


In our own interviews, relatively little was said in this connection 
about Chinese in the United States beyond the familiar, and older, 
stereotypes. In a certain number (21) more detailed observations 
did appear, most of them when the panelists were asked to give their 
impressions how other Americans generally regarded the Chinese. 
Some tried quite conscientiously to imagine what the common 
views might be; others lapsed back into notions of their own: 

I suppose they think of the laundryman, restauranteur, the heathen 
Chinee. Conflicts in California, ignorance, dirt, superstition, pounding 
gongs to drive away dragons and devils, Chinatowns. I visited the San 
Francisco Chinatown (when I was a young man) and heard them 
banging gongs 

Or again: 

All levels of U.S. society find the Chinese inscrutable, that we can- 
not understand them no matter how hard we try, that their ultimate 
thinking is untouched and unreached by us. Suppose this comes from 
Fu Manchu, early movie villains, the devious mysterious Chinese. 
Am at a loss to judge this myself, though I did get some of their feeling 
from my contacts with them. . . . The Chinese I knew puzzled me 
the most, always seemed impenetrable to me. 

From a Midwestern editor: 

The common idea of "how do you tell them apart?" People not 
given to showing emotion, stoic. Also geniality, from Charlie Chan, the 
genial sleuth. . . . 

A professor of economics: 

Wouldn't distinguish my views from others. . . . They include the 
Chinese laundryman, happy, hardworking, obsequious, overpolite. . . . 
The Fu Manchu image, devious, slant-eyed, Oriental schemer, though 
I never took this one seriously 

A public opinion specialist: 

Have never seen a cross section taken on this. Would assume in 

were about like others in readiness to "work with" Chinese but markedly less will- 
ing to have them as neighbors. College-educated people were somewhat more 
willing than less-educated folks to entertain Chinese as guests, but were markedly 
less willing to have them as neighbors. Except in the marriage column, the Chi- 
nese remained generally behind the Jews in degree of acceptability with two strik- 
ing exceptions: The "college-educated" and the "professional and executive" 
groups were more willing to have Chinese than Jews as fellow workers, although 
Jews were still slightly more acceptable for these groups as neighbors and guests, 
and by a wide margin, as kin-by-marriage. 


most a vast ignorance. Of those with some knowledge, would expect 
casual contacts in restaurants, laundries, movies. Very little else. 
Might think the Chinese untrustworthy in business, capable of living 
on impossibly low wages. All hearsay and vague ideas. "Never trust a 
Chink" I heard this dozens of times in my boyhood. . . . 

A social scientist of European background: 

I would know little of this. Assume the average thinking is based on 
more actual contact, laundrymen, waiters, restaurant owners, taxi- 
drivers, Chinatowns. Rather friendly feelings so long as the underdog 
status remains unchanged. Suspect white Americans feel kindlier to- 
ward Negroes. Classify them comparably to Negroes but see no threat 
of equality or penetration. 

Several with Calif ornian backgrounds: 

Idea of the "Chinks" in California in the 1930*8. Yellow peril, sea 
of immigration, keep them out, deviousness. . . . 

Most Americans think of Chinese unfavorably, especially on the 
West coast. They would "rather not discuss it," pretty much like 
polite people talking about Jews. A strong feeling that the Chinese 
are OK so long as they are in Chinatown, but not anywhere else. . . . 

My father thinks of the Chinese as honest and industrious. ... I 
did have the San Francisco stereotype of the Chinese who knows his 
menial place and sticks to it. But I think the old anti-Chinese prejudice 
is pretty dead. 

Californians think of the Chinese largely as coolies because that is 
what they were here, hardworking, frugal, cheaper, undersell anybody, 
"undesirables," especially as purchasers of land. Don't hear this much 
anymore. Passage of time has changed this. Up to time of war, heard 
more about Japanese. The Chinese were seen as pathetic "poor bas- 
tards." But now Chinese here are Americans and are accepted as such. 
Tension point now very low, with some exceptions. It could be aroused 

In 1952, a Chinese, a former Nationalist army officer named Sing 
Sheng, moved with his family into a San Francisco suburb called 
Southwood. His new neighbors protested and demanded that he 
and his family leave. Believing that majority opinion would be with 
him, Sing Sheng proposed a vote and said he would abide by the 
result. The community voted 174 against him, 28 for, and 14 were 
without opinion. When this news appeared, offers of new homes 


reached the family from all over the country and they finally moved 
to Sonoma, California, where they were assured they would be wel- 
come. In May, 1955, a New York Times survey of racial bias in the 
country reported optimistically: "Since World War II, people of 
Japanese and Chinese lineage, who in the West coast states used to 
be the targets of the most systematic discrimination, have moved 
into a status close to first-class citizenship." In a paper presented at 
the meeting of the Far Eastern Association in 1956, Dr. Rose Hum 
Lee pointed out that native-born Chinese-Americans now comprise 
about half the total Chinese population in this country, that in large 
numbers they have moved up the educational and occupational 
ladders, have left behind them much of their identification with the 
ancestral homeland, a process of alienation hastened for many by the 
Communist conquest of power in China. For these Chinese-Ameri- 
cans, Dr. Lee hopefully foresaw a bright prospect of increasingly 
rapid integration into American society. 44 

On the other hand, in October, 1956, not on the West Coast but 
at Evanston, Illinois, a Northwestern University fraternity embar- 
rassedly withdrew a pledge it had offered to a Chinese freshman, 
Sherman Wu, son of a former high official of the Chinese National- 
ist government. "At least seven freshmen declined to be pledged 
because of Mr. Wu/' the president of the fraternity was quoted as 
saying. "Later," the news account went on, "Mr. Wu said two other 
fraternities had offered him membership. 'If they are sincere enough, 
I may join one. I don't know yet/ he said." 45 


"Aix MY LIFE," said a United States Senator, a member of our 
panel, "I'd looked upon the Chinese as wards. We always tried to 
protect them, always resisted attacks on them." 

In these words, including their tense and their tone, the Senator 
stated succinctly one of the most commanding of all the themes that 
emerge from this natural history of American images of the Chinese. 

44 Dr. Rose Hum Lee, "The Integration of the Chinese in the United States/ 7 
presented before the Far Eastern Association, Philadelphia, March 29, 1956. 

45 JVew Yorfe Times, November i, 1956. 


From the conception of the Chinese as inferior people to the image 
of the Chinese as wards is really but a small step. There were 400 
million subhumans who, with appropriate protection and enterprise, 
could become 400 million customers and open endless vistas for 
American trade and industry. There were 400 million benighted souls 
which, with appropriate guidance and instruction, could be saved 
from damnation and add a vast realm to God's kingdom on earth. 
These twin dreams inspired the role of benevolent guardian in which 
the American saw himself in relation to the Chinese and which is 
so heavily stamped on the American view of all this history. 

Because of the nature of his own recent past and the moral com- 
mitments it imposed upon him, the nineteenth century American, 
by and large, had to suppress the impulse to proceed abroad in the 
empire-building manner of the times. The pull of these influences 
was strong enough to give a peculiar cast of ineptitude and incon- 
sistency to American imperial temptations and to burden them with 
a weight of conscience and a sense of wrongdoing unfelt as a rule 
by the European participants in these affairs. Hence Americans chose 
the other alternative, which was to keep other foreigners from turn- 
ing China into an exclusive preserve for themselves. This was done 
by insisting upon the American right to enjoy the same perquisites 
and privileges exacted from China by force or threats by any other 
Power. Thus in 1844, as a l reac ty noted, Caleb Gushing negotiated 
for the United States the concessions won by the British in the war 
of 1839-41. The same intent led, in 1858, to the spectacle of an 
American minister waiting at the river's mouth while English and 
French cannon battered the forts, then sailing in to negotiate the 
American share of the fruits of Anglo-French victory. 46 

46 Foster Rhea Dulles, China and America, Princeton, 1946, p. 58. "The 
English barbarians/' the Imperial Commissioner wrote the Emperor about this 
time, "are full of insidious schemes, uncontrollably fierce and imperious. The 
American nation does no more than follow in their direction." Quoted by Dulles, 
ibid., p. 62. 

Tyler Dennett, detailing expansionist maneuvers and strong-arm tactics used 
by William H. Seward as secretary of state (1861-69) one of the earliest and 
strongest believers in an American Pacific destiny records apologetically that 
Seward had been guilty of "a list of very un-American actions/' "Seward's Far 
Eastern Policy/' American Historical Review, XXVIII, 1923, p. 61. 

The imperialists of the Roosevelt-McKinley era had to buck the strong oppo- 
sition and revulsion of a large number of prominent Americans who "did not 
oppose colonial expansion for commercial, religious, constitutional or humani- 
tarian reasons [but] because they thought that an imperialist policy ran counter 
to the political doctrines of the Declaration of Independence, Washington's 


This was the open door, insisted upon from the beginning, which 
was eventually enthroned as the Open Door by John Hay's notes to 
the Powers in 1899-1900. Gradually enlarged in interpretation if not 
intent and draped over with all sorts of real and synthetic appurte- 
nances of high moral purpose, this policy established the American 
role as protector not only of access to China, but necessarily of 
China's accessibility, or in more suitable language, its freedom, 
independence, and integrity. From this came the special sense of a 
benevolent American guardianship over China's well-being. 

But traders, especially in that past day, seldom had to idealize their 
purposes. For politicians and diplomats it was a somewhat more 
stringent though not an imperative requirement. It was the mis- 
sionary, his brother's keeper by vocation, who gave this experience 
its unique cast, who played a special and sometimes decisive role in 
matters of policy in war and peace affecting China, and who was 
more responsible by far than either the trader or the diplomat for the 
images of the Chinese created in American minds over these many 

Some of the earliest Catholic missionaries, quite unlike Francis of 
Assisi, or the famous traveler, Father Matteo Ricci, had come to 
China actually buckled in armor and in command of armed expedi- 
tions. Protestant missionaries, arriving some two hundred years later, 
came more sedately a step behind the adventurers and the traders. 
One of the first New England merchants to make a fortune in the 
China trade was a pious Yankee named D. W. C. Olyphant. He 
provided the funds in 1830 to bring over and establish in Canton the 
first American mission to the Chinese. During the next 119 years- 
to its effective liquidation in 1949 this enterprise ultimately came to 
involve thousands of missionaries and their families and the invest- 
ment and annual expenditure of many millions of dollars. 47 Both in 

Farewell Address, and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address the doctrines which as- 
serted that a government could not rule peoples without their consent. . . ." 
"The Anti- Imperialist Movement in the United States, 1898-1900," by Fred H. 
Harrington, The Mississippi Historical Review, XXII, No. 2, 1935, p. 211. For 
a gruff and cantless summary of some of these events as viewed by an economic 
determinist, see Charles A. Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, New York, 
19 30, Vol. I, pp. 717-724- 

47 Precise and inclusive figures are lacking. Some estimates have placed capi- 
tal investment in mission institutions in China at $50,000,000, which would 
have made it one-fourth of the total American investment in China in 1930. An 
indication of the annual outlay by U.S. contributors in the peak decades is the 
figure for 1935, given as an incomplete total for China of $3,817,307. The total 


people and in dollars, China became the largest single field of Ameri- 
can missionary effort. 

The missionary movement grew out of evangelical Christianity 
with its deepest roots in rural America. It created a special place for 
China in the minds of millions of churchgoing Americans over some 
five generations. China was, moreover, the only field of mission 
effort which was also, from the very beginning, a sphere of impor- 
tant American political and economic interests, the only place where 
these interests and missionary enterprise were so inextricably en- 
twined over so long a time. It took a newspaper to send Stanley into 
Africa to find the lonely Livingstone, but the United States govern- 
ment, together with a group of European nations, sent an army into 
China to quell a rebellion of which missionaries were the principal 
foreign victims, and kept on sending gunboats up China's rivers for 
decades to punish molesters of mission stations. The direct stake 
so many Americans acquired in China through their churches made 
it an almost unique exception to the rule whereby most Americans 
considered the rest of the world no part of their business. This is at 
least one key to the remarkable role played by China in American 
national life in the last decade and even more a key to the role 
played in these matters by leaders deeply rooted in the isolationist 
tradition. It also begins to identify the peculiarly parental emotions 
that are threaded through the whole mesh of American-Chinese 

The nature of missionary feeling about China and the Chinese, 
past and present, is a largely unstudied subject. A vast body of 
literature awaits scrutiny, a rich and almost wholly unexplored terri- 
tory where great prizes await the perspicacious prospector. We can 
do hardly more here than try to glimpse the peaks and the valleys 
and to pick up a few samples selected for assay at different distances 
from our present location in time. 

The Wonderful Heathen 

Let us move first only a short way from where we stand now, back 
to the growing-up years of the majority of the members of our panel. 
To judge from what we know of them, there must be relatively few 

given for American missionaries in China that year, also incomplete, is 2,785, 
Both totals are for Protestants only. Cf. Interpretative Statistical Survey of the 
World Mission of the Christian Church, International Missionary Council, New 
York, 1938, pp. 87, 127. 


people of mature age in this country today who, if they belong to 
one of the great Protestant denominations and have been brought 
up in churchgoing families, have not in some way been touched by 
the missionary experience. Close kin or family connections, or 
friends, fellow townsfolk, or fellow students went to China as mis- 
sionaries. Visiting missionaries back from China appeared quite fre- 
quently to tell about their Work, ministers and Sunday school 
teachers spurred their flocks week after week to help in the cause. 
Pennies, nickels, dimes, and dollars, heaping into millions, were 
folded carefully into envelopes or dropped into collection plates or 
baskets by children and adults week in and week out, year after year. 
Here is where young minds were often scratched most meaningfully 
and most permanently. 

There was impressive evidence of this among the panel's 137 
Protestants and 13 Catholics. When they were asked to recall their 
earliest associations connected with Asia, 123 of these individuals 
quickly mentioned "missionaries" missionaries seen or heard or 
heard about, mission committees that would meet in their homes, 
mission publications on the table in the parlor, mission activity at 
denominational colleges, an essential part of the good Christian life 
in support of which, from their earliest years, they yielded up 
weekly their cherished coins. 

Of these 123, 78 associated the memory with China. Of these 78, 
26 produced no more than the single connecting strand: Asia-mis- 
sionaries-China. But the majority brought this association up out of 
musty corners of memory trailing wisps of feeling-impression, things 
they could remember hearing about China or the Chinese in the 
missionary setting. 

In 4 of these cases, the tone was neuter. The Chinese were back- 
ward, unusual, different, andwithout passion heathen. 

In 8 others, some of these same notions reappear, but now strongly 
flavored with the scent of sin and damnation: 

an idea of heathenish, strange, slant-eyed, devious people; different, 
heathenish, wicked because they were not Christian; poverty, filth, 
disease; wretched, wicked, hungry; backward people who bound 
women's feet; chaotic conditions, lawlessness, banditry, cruelty, cor- 
ruption. . . . 

But in all the rest (40), the recall associated with missionaries 
carried with it a note of kind or benevolent sympathy, e.g.: 


a poor downtrodden people; great human misery, suffering, how poor 
the children were; felt sorry for them; backward people in need of our 
help; suffering poverty, famine, starvation 

or a note of high regard, even affection for the Chinese: 

their charming ways; goodness, kindness, sympathy, friendliness; poor, 
gentle, peaceful, kindly people; good, simple, hardworking, worthy peo- 
ple; nice, poor, intelligent people who arouse friendly feelings; honest, 
needy people; generous, humane, appreciative of things done for them; 
responding to efforts of missionaries; a fine, sympathetic feeling; hu- 
mans like we are, with an ancient culture in some ways superior to 
ours; had great love and respect for the Chinese. . . . 

Within the limits set "by their particular emotional needs and 
involvements, missionaries often although not always develop a 
special bias for the people among whom they work. This can ran 
sometimes to strong partisanship where political or other conflicts 
arise; e.g., India missionaries and Pakistan missionaries may argue 
over the disputed issue of Kashmir just like Indians and Pakistanis. 
This could be just good mission politics. It could also be a matter 
of plain local loyalties not very different from those attached to the 
old alma mater or the local ball team. In one of our interviews a 
Catholic prelate described with amused relish a scene he witnessed 
in a Hong Kong hostel in which missionaries from a number of 
Asian countries reached the point of angrily pulling each others 7 
beards across the table in an argument over the relative merits of 
"their" various peoples. But even within this general pattern, China 
missionaries have won a particular reputation for highly emotional 
attachments to "their" country and its people. Some typical exam- 
ples from missionaries in our panel: 

Like all who have lived there, I have warm, friendly feelings, great 
admiration for the Chinese. Personal relations, feeling for the ability, 
culture, character of the Chinese, more outgoing and easier to know, 
for example, than the Japanese. Despite all the difficulties, our experi- 
ence there was pleasant. I would like to go back. . . . No one can read 
Chinese history without acquiring great respect for Chinese thought 
and philosophy. I think of the Chinese, the beauty spots, the carved 
feeling of the past of China, its great attraction, its unusual atmos- 
phere. ... Of course corruption and conflicts and squeeze, in many 
of the churches too. . . . 

I think of all those I knew, baptized, ordained, trained. All so de- 


voted and loyal. I think of a cinerama of things, mostly that I should 
really be back there now. . . . People who love China really go over 
the edge about it. ... But I think this feeling has some basis in fact. 
Of course there are lots of negative things about the Chinese too. They 
lie for politeness 7 sake, are often dishonest about money matters, smoke 
opium. But I like all the Chinese. . . . 

The Chinese are one of the finest peoples I have known, generous, 
have a sense of humor, are loyal to their families, devoted to the arts 
and sciences. I think of the loyal amahs who cared for missionary chil- 
dren, friends loyal over long years. . . . 

It should be easy from these samples to see how other members of 
our panel collected from firsthand or secondhand missionary sources 
impressions like the following: 

A special feeling about China, highly sympathetic notions out of 
the missionary tradition. . . . 

I have an impression from the writings of John Caldwell and the 
whole Protestant missionary world, about which I hardly know any- 
thing, of a sort of great basic sympathy for China rooted in missionary 

At Yale there was quite a bit of tradition about China, Yale-in- 
China, Henry Luce, John Hersey. . . . China certainly does shatter 
people, affects their lives so greatly. I always recognize this in people 
I meet who have been connected with China and make lifelong com- 
mitments to it. ... 

My ideas come from missionaries, of how wonderful the Chinese 
are, how much they needed to be helped, and how receptive they 
were to help. . . . 

I have an impression of tremendous affection for the Chinese peo- 
ple. I remember it in a missionary I met in Tientsin. . . . 

I have a feeling of sympathetic attitudes about the Chinese, from 
missionaries, ladies and societies doing things for them, missionary 
books telling of their experiences. . . . 

They love the Chinese. They never get over it. Several on my staff 
have been daughters of China missionaries. But anybody who ever 
was in China is like this. . . . 

Emanations of this kind from China missionaries have been strong 
enough, often, to arouse the nettled and envious irritation of mis- 
sionaries who have served in other countries. One, who worked in 


Japan, said: "The Chinese missionaries were so critical of the Japa- 
nese that it made me defensive about the Japanese and negative 
about the Chinese." Another missionary official who had the task of 
picking up the pieces after the 1949 exodus from China: 

When I came to this job I had many meetings with ex-China people 
available for the jobs open. They made me feel shut out because I 
knew nothing about China. They felt resentful because they thought 
the only significant mission work had been done in China. So I came 
to feel the heck with them. I resisted learning about it, never be- 
came interested in it, and never tried to acquire any interest in the 

One of our panelists remembered that a certain retired member of 
a China missionary family in his Midwestern home town used to 
speak disparagingly of the Chinese and was therefore regarded by 
the neighbors as queer. "She was a chowderhead anyway/ 7 he said, 
"and if she wasn't in a mental hospital, she should have been." He 
could easily summon up, after nearly thirty years and almost with 
anger, this ghost of a memory so long laid away. But let us live now 
with that ghost for a while. For the dissident old lady who did not 
share the general enthusiasm for the Chinese was simply persisting 
in views that had been the common ones of her own time, when 
most of these admiring enthusiasts were not quite born or were 
still small children. We catch a glimpse of this in the difference be- 
tween what most of our panelists who were born between about 
1905 and 1915 remember about missionary views of the Chinese and 
these recollections from one of our older panelists, born in i? 

I was named after a China missionary. My mother was active in 
the Christian Missionary Alliance. When I was between about six 
and ten, we had a summer place where the Alliance had annual camp 
meetings. Missionaries from China ... the Chinese were pretty 
heathen. Benighted. Perverse for being heathen, a poor benighted 
mass, a people to be pitied and helped. . . . Also in some other con- 
nection wily and untrustworthy. . . . 

It is not necessary to go too far back or to look too deeply into the 
written record to discover that all was not always so glowing, China 
not always so admired, the Chinese not always so beloved by mis- 
sionaries as they became in recent decades. As late as 1938, Carl 
Crow, a journalist-turned-businessman whose own experience in 
China went back to 1911, had this to say about missionaries: 


Having come to China to conquer sin, they have a keen and wary eye 
out for the ancient enemy. Anyone who looks for sin in any part of the 
world will have no difficulty about finding it, and the search for evidence 
of sin has never been prosecuted in any country with more perseverance 
and skill than by the missionaries whose work brought them to China, 
where sin is not only prevalent but exists unconcealed in many a pic- 
turesque guise. It is only of recent years that some missionaries have come 
to take a more tolerant and sympathetic view of the Chinese people. 48 

This "more tolerant and sympathetic view" which was beginning to 
appear more commonly in the i93O 7 s was rather less common in the 
troubled 1920'$ and had become only intermittently visible in the 
decade or so before that. The farther back we retrace the record, the 
more astringent becomes the feeling-tone of it. Indeed, as we move 
toward the far side of the marker 1900, we soon become aware that 
the dominant view of that day was the view held in our present panel 
by only a tiny majority. In this older, more tarnished mirror we catch 
images of the Chinese as a heathenish, wickedly mendacious, obsti- 
nate, and on the whole quite difficult people. The tone then, as now, 
was benevolent, but before it became kindly it was often strained, 
angry, and even contemptuous. 

The Exasperating Heathen 

The pioneering generations of missionaries were stern men of God, 
fixed in their notions of eternal righteousness and with little patience 
for the sinful vagaries of the benighted ones not yet bathed in grace. 
For many of them Satan was triumphant even in Christian denomi- 
nations other than their own and this among their own kind. How 
much more surely did he rule, then, over the iniquities of Oriental 
heathenism, especially Chinese heathenism which so stubbornly re- 
sisted salvation, which not only did not accept or acknowledge Chris- 
tian and Western superiority, but insisted that its own was the only 
superior civilization in a world of barbarians? A writer in the first 
volume of the first missionary publication in China gives us this 
glimpse of what seemed to be the common early-impression view of 

Everything that has been published respecting the Chinese only serves 
to show, more and more forcibly, that they are a very peculiar people, of 

48 Carl Crow, The Chinese Are Like That, New York, 1938, Tower Edition, 
1943, p. 144. 


whose character, dispositions, and prejudices, it is extremely difficult to 
obtain a correct knowledge even by long residence among them. . . . One 
of the predominating characteristics of the Chinese is that love of specious 
falsehood which stamps almost all their words and actions, which must 
be mainly attributed to their long subjection under a despotic sway, and 
the almost universal tyranny of their corrupt and unprincipled rulers. 
Another characteristic is their exclusive selfishness, which, coupled with 
their pride and arrogance, leads them to regard their own country as the 
crown of nations, and the centre of civilization, and to look on all for- 
eigners as an inferior race of beings, deserving ought but their hatred 
and contempt. 49 

Shortly, the Europeans, led by the British, began to use brute force 
to break down this prideful and arrogant Chinese notion of supe- 
riority and, by the only means they had, to correct the Chinese idea 
that all foreigners were an inferior race of beings. It is impossible to 
separate the missionaries from this assault; they were too much a part 
of it. Over the next sixty years missionaries and mission interests 
were wound in with the commercial and diplomatic interests of the 
Powers, with the early wars, and after a certain early hesitant con- 
fusion owing to its neo-Christian character with the foreign role 
in helping the Manchu Dynasty suppress the Taiping Rebellion, 
and with innumerable smaller punitive actions climaxed by the sup- 
pression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. In all these events the mis- 
sionaries were intimately concerned, as victims of Chinese hostility 
and mob violence, as beneficiaries of special clauses inserted in the 
treaties of conquest which they helped draft and negotiate and as 
recipients of indemnities for damage to property and persons 
which they helped to exact and then to collect and administer. Mis- 
sionaries served their governments as interpreters and emissaries and 
utilized to the full the support of their governments and armed 
forces for their effort to propagate their Gospel. By virtue of all this, 
writes Kenneth Latourette, himself a product of the missionary move- 
ment arid one of its principal American historians, "the Church had 
become a partner in Western imperialism and could not well dis- 
avow some responsibility for the consequences." ^ 

The early wars which opened China to the mission effort were 
fought primarily to force entry for European traders and, most im- 
mediately, to force Chinese acceptance of the highly profitable trade 

49 The Chinese Repository f Canton, Vol. i, October, 1832, pp. 213-214. 

50 A History of Christian Missions in China, New York, 1929, p. 280. 


in opium, which was brought to the China coast from India. As one 
English historian wryly put it, the Gospel and the drug "came to- 
gether, have been fought for together, and were finally legalized 
together." 51 If there were any moral qualms among the missionaries 
over any of these proceedings, they do not show very plainly in the 
record. S. Wells Williams, one of the first American missionaries, a 
participant in these events, and later the first major American sino- 
logue, tells us how the very secular Lord Elgin, the British pleni- 
potentiary, standing off Canton in his warship ready to bombard 
the town, felt ashamed and sad. *1 feel," he told the ship's captain, 
"that I am earning for myself a place in the Litany immediately after 
'plague, pestilence, and famine/ " He knew himself unable to act 
otherwise than he did, but he still "thought bitterly of those who, 
for the most selfish objects, are trampling under foot this ancient 
civilization." 52 But Williams himself suggests that the role of opium 
in these wars caused only a moment's "melancholy reflection" to the 
Christian missionary of the day. He gave it as his judgment that the 
war, "though eminently unjust in its cause as an opium war . . . was 
still, as far as human sagacity can perceive, a wholesome infliction 
upon a government which haughtily refused all equal intercourse 
with other nations." 53 A writer in the Chinese Repository saw it all 
as another of God's mysterious wonders. "The events of this year 
[1842] . . . show in a wonderful manner the working of His provi- 
dence, who often mercifully brings good out of evil, making human 
wrath productive alike of man's happiness and God's glory." ^ La- 
tourette records that there was a certain indignation over the obvious 
iniquities of the opium trade. "Yet in this indignation," he goes on, 
"there was mixed a curiously inconsistent enthusiasm over the pros- 
pect of an open China and the opportunities it would offer. While 
deploring the means, Americans exulted in the end." 55 

51 Joshua Rowntree, The Imperial Drug Trade, London, 1908, p. 242. 

52 The Middle Kingdom, Vol. II, p. 644. 
58 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 572. 

54 "Retrospection, or a Review of Public Occurrences in China during the 
Year 1842," Chinese Repository, Vol. 2, December, 1842, p. 673. 

55 History of Early Relations . . , p. 126. In his later larger and more defini- 
tive work, Latourette touches lightly again on this delicate matter: "It may be 
open to debate whether representatives of Jesus ought to have accepted privileges 
wrung from a nation by force of arms. It is probably even more a question 
whether they ought to have given their countenance to the negotiations which 
obtained these privileges for them. Missionaries and their advocates in America, 
however, appear to have been troubled little if any by these doubts. The opium 


During the subsequent decades, missionaries generally exercised to 
the full the powers of extraterritoriality and the privilege of special 
protection provided by the treaties for their Chinese converts. Ex- 
ceptions were rare. On one occasion the great James Legge, an Eng- 
lishman and translator of the Chinese classics, advised his friends: 
"If news comes that I have been murdered, go at once to the Eng- 
lish consul and tell him that it is my wish that no English gunboat 
should be sent up the river to punish the people for my death." But 
this was eccentric conduct. Missionaries generally, the record shows, 
exercised their "rights" to the full and sometimes beyond it, and felt 
quite righteously just in doing so. 

It is plain that the Chinese had to be great sinners indeed and the 
need for their salvation commanding beyond ordinary measure to 
justify this behavior. There was certainly much in China life to 
support this view, at least in the mind of the sin-seeking Christian 
evangelist. Whatever the virtues so widely celebrated at a distance 
by the men of the Enlightenment a century before, these men of the 
Evangelical Awakening, observing China close up, found the most 
noxious and sinful vices. When in addition to being wicked, the 
Chinese turned out to be weak, the common feeling for them among 
these foreigners was certainly bound to be something a good deal 
short of admiration. 

Wells Williams, who worked harder than most in his forty-three 
years in China "to obtain a correct knowledge" of the country and 
its people, published in 1848 the first edition of his classic work, 
The Middle Kingdom, and in 1883 a revised edition carrying events 
up to that time, so that his volumes cover the knowledge and experi- 
ence of China and the attitudes acquired during the first half-century 
of the missionary enterprise. His principal object, he wrote, was "to 
divest the Chinese people and civilisation of that peculiar and inde- 
finable impression of ridicule which has been so generally given them 
by foreign authors." He "endeavored to show the better traits of 
their national character" and considered that "the time is speedily 
passing when the people of the Flowery Land can fairly be classified 

traffic was vigorously criticized. . . . No one, however, seems seriously to have 
challenged . . . the propriety of missionaries accepting the opportunities thus ob- 
tained. Missionaries or former missionaries served as interpreters and secretaries 
in negotiating each of the main treaties. ... In both Protestant and Catholic 
circles, the treaties were welcomed as marking a new era in missions and advan- 
tage was at once taken of them." A History of Christian Missions in China, 
pp. 231-232. 


among the uncivilised nations." He was hopeful of the forthcoming 
"descent of the Holy Spirit" and was confident that with the grow- 
ing success of the mission cause, the Chinese people would "become 
fitted for taking up the work themselves/ 7 for only in "the success of 
this cause lies the salvation of China as a people, both in its moral 
and political aspects." ^ 

It is certain from his account that few peoples on earth needed 
this regeneration more sorely than the Chinese. Chinese civilization 
might appear to have a unique character, he observed, but "a slight 
acquaintance with their morals proves their similarities to their fel- 
low men in the lineaments of a fallen and depraved nature." He 
found admirable the peace and order of Chinese life, the security of 
life and property, the homogeneity of their education, and the exam- 
ination system which "removes the main incentive to violence in 
order to obtain posts of power and dignity." Their antiquity had 
also left them "fully settled in a great regard for the family compact 
and deep reverence for parents and superiors." Then he continued: 

When, however, these traits have been mentioned, the Chinese are still 
more left without excuse for their wickedness. . . . With a general regard 
for outward decency, they are vile and polluted in a shocked degree; their 
conversation is full of filthy expressions and their lives of impure acts. . . . 
More uneradicable than the sins of the flesh is the falsity of the Chinese 
and its attendant sin of base ingratitude. . . . There is nothing which tires 
one so much when living among them as their disregard of truth, and 
renders him so indifferent as to what calamities may befall so mendacious 
a race; an abiding impression of suspicion toward everybody rests upon 
the mind, which chills the warmest wishes for their welfare and thwarts 
many a plan to benefit them. Their better traits diminish in the distance 
and patience is exhausted in its daily proximity and friction with this 
ancestor of all sins. . . . Thieving is exceedingly common. . . . The polite- 
ness which they exhibit seldom has its motive in goodwill and conse- 
quently, when the varnish is off, the rudeness, brutality, and coarseness 
of the material is seen. . . . Female infanticide in some parts openly 
confessed and divested of all disgrace and penalties ... the universal 
practice of lying and dishonest dealings; the unblushing lewdness of old 
and young; harsh cruelty toward prisoners by officers and tyranny over 
slaves by masters all form a full unchecked torrent of human depravity, 
and prove the existence of a kind and degree of moral degradation of 
which an excessive statement can scarcely be made or an adequate con- 
ception hardly be formed. 

56 Middle Kingdom, Vol. I, pp. xiv- xv. 


On the whole [he concludes] the Chinese present a singular mixture: 
if there is something to commend, there is more to blame; if they have 
some glaring vices, they have more virtues than most pagan nations. 
Ostentatious kindness and inbred suspicion, ceremonious civility and real 
rudeness, partial invention and servile imitation, industry and waste, 
sycophancy and self-dependence, are, with other dark and bright qualities, 
strangely blended. 57 

Essentially the same image of the Chinese, and the same sugges- 
tion of exhausted patience, appears somewhat later in much more 
systematic form in Arthur Smith's Chinese Characteristics. Smith, a 
missionary of twenty-one years' experience in China, was at least a 
partial product of the age of Darwin and Lewis Morgan. He under- 
took to write of the Chinese in the scholarly manner, complete with 
prefatory warnings against generalizations and a text dotted with 
sweeping statements. But he did bring together the sum of the ex- 
perience and feeling of his contemporaries as well as his own, and 
his book stood for many years as a standard work, not only as an 
essential item in the preparation of new workers about to enter the 
vineyards, but as the source for some of the most widely held notions 
of the nature of the Chinese people. 

There is an occasional touch of rueful humor in Smith's portrayal 
of Chinese vagaries which is almost entirely lacking in Williams. 
The Chinese, he noted, were often accurately likened to the bam- 
boo: "It is graceful, it is everywhere useful, it is supple, and it is 
hollow. When the east wind blows, it bends to the west. When the 
west wind blows, it bends to the east. When no wind blows, it does 
not bend at all." Concerning Chinese attitudes toward foreigners: 
"Many Chinese unconsciously adopt toward foreigners an air of 
amused interest combined with depreciation, like that with which 
Mr. Littimer regarded David Copperfield, as if mentally saying per- 
petually, 'So young, sir, so young!' " In a time when foreigners in 
China were rarely able to view themselves critically, Smith could 
acknowledge that there was 'Very little in the conduct of any West- 
ern nation in its dealings with the Chinese of which we have any 
reason to be proud." He even thought Westerners, and especially 
Americans, might benefit from borrowing some of the less excessive 
and less insincere forms of Chinese politeness, filial piety, and most 
of all, the ''innate cheerfulness" and "staying powers" of the Chi- 

57 Middle Kingdom, Vol. I, pp. 833-836. 


nese and their "unlimited capacity for patient endurance." From 
these qualities which ultimately became the basis for much more 
unqualified admiration of the Chinese by many Americans Smith 
derived, like Williams and others, a strong sense of the "great fu- 
ture" that lay before this "sensitive, obstinate, conservative people/* 

But these gleams of humor and respect are all but totally sub- 
merged in Smith's pages in a pervasive tone of irritation and anger 
over the inconceivably devious and wicked puzzles of Chinese ways 
and Chinese character, a feeling which, as in Williams, seemed held 
in check at times only by the most heroic kind of Christian forbear- 
ance. Some chapter heads suggest the mood: The Disregard of Time, 
The Disregard of Accuracy, The Talent for Misunderstanding, The 
Talent for Indirection, Flexible Inflexibility, Intellectual Turbidity, 
The Absence of Nerves, Contempt for Foreigners, The Absence of 
Public Spirit, The Absence of Sympathy, Mutual Suspicion, The 
Absence of Sincerity, and so on. 

"All Chinese are gifted," wrote Smith, "with an instinct for taking 
advantage of misunderstandings/' Or: "The Chinese marry at a very 
early age and the desire for posterity is the one ruling passion in 
which, next to the love of money, the Chinese race is most agreed/ 7 
Much of the code of politeness is "bewildering and a little madden- 
ing to the foreigner," and "no extended experience of the Chinese 
is required to enable a foreigner to arrive at the conclusion that it is 
impossible, from merely hearing what a Chinese says, to tell what 
he means/' These texts are often illustrated, like so many foreigners' 
stories about the Chinese, with anecdotes about servants, A special 
acerbity is reserved for the way in which the Chinese waste the 
Westerner's valuable time: "No Chinese has ever yet learned that 
when he kills time it is well to make certain that it is time which 
belongs to him, and not that of someone else." He is distinctly 
bothered by the "jealous contempt" of the Chinese literati for all 
foreigners and by the "intellectual turbidity" which produced "con- 
formity for conformity's sake." As for religion, the millions of China 
were "as destitute of anything which ought to be called faith as they 
are of an acquaintance with Chinese hieroglyphics." 5S 

The tone of Smith's observations is wry or rueful, sad or angry, 
but never affectionate. It is above all exasperated. These were way- 
ward, delinquent, difficult people, whose good qualities would never 

58 Chinese Characteristics, passim. 


prevail until they had fully and finally adopted for their own the 
Gospel these foreigners brought. For what China needed was "a new 
life in every individual soul, in the family, and in society/' and these 
manifold needs would be met "permanently, completely, only by 
Christian civilization." Smith and his contemporaries believed this 
passionately and with all their hearts and were devoting their lives 
to it. The hostility they met was bad enough; the most intolerably 
exasperating of all was the fact that in their overwhelming numbers, 
the Chinese simply could not care less. 

The Chinese are not the only ones to whom the whole mission 
enterprise could seem odd or outrageous. But this only accents the 
pathos of the earlier history of the undertaking. Hardship, suffering, 
hostility, and mortal danger filled the lives of these remarkably cir- 
cumscribed people who went, unsought and uninvited but with such 
utter conviction, to minister to the reluctant heathen so far away. 
Their families were often decimated by disease; many an infant 
sacrifice to the cause was laid in a grave in this inhospitable land. 
They frequently had to flee from violence. There was little peace or 
comfort in their lives at best, and even at best, they still had to 
cope with all the exasperatingly sinful qualities of the Chinese- 
mendacity, gross self-interest, godlessness, love of money, superstition, 
cruelty. There was not much here, as they must have seen it, to 
become sentimental about, little time for love, even among them- 
selves. They were foreign devils unwanted in a strange land, and their 
need to sustain their own faith was too pressing to allow them to 
find too much virtue in the great mass of hostile or indifferent sin- 
ners by whom they were surrounded. 

Indeed the accumulated hostility of the Chinese toward these 
foreigners exploded once more half a dozen years after Arthur 
Smith's book appeared. Those final years of the century were marked 
by unrestrained foreign depredations in China, the humiliating de- 
feat inflicted upon China by Japan in 1895, and the tearing away of 
concession after concession by the European Powers in the scramble 
that followed. Chinese helplessness and frustration produced the con- 
vulsive gesture of the Boxer Rebellion. Before the bloodletting of 
1900 was over, more than 200 foreign devils and a reputed total of 
some 30,000 secondary devils (Chinese Christians) had been killed, 
and an Allied punitive expedition that marched from Tientsin to 
Peking, and later fanned out over northeastern China, took many 
times more that number in gross retribution. There was Christian 


martyrdom; then there was looting, rapine, and slaughter by the 
avenging Christian armies. In the sequel of capitulation, negotiation, 
collection, and disbursement of punitive indemnities, many mis- 
sionaries and Chinese Christians appear to have played a distinctly 
unheroic and uncharitable role. 59 

This was hardly the "descent of the Holy Spirit" which Wells 
Williams had so prayerfully predicted only a few years earlier. But it 
was a catharsis and, ironically, it did usher in the nearest thing to a 
golden age the missionaries and foreigners generally ever enjoyed 
in China. The new relationship between the triumphant foreigner 
and the thoroughly defeated Chinese produced the kindlier, more 
sympathetic and enthusiastically admiring images of the Chinese 
which were carried over into our own time. 


IN THE EARLY YEARS of this century, when most of our panelists were 
being born, new lights began to shine on American images of the 
Chinese; they began to be differently seen and to arouse new and 
kindlier emotions. Since there is room in every present for the whole 
past, there were still a great many who continued to feel an inde- 
cipherable strangeness in the Chinese and to react to them with 
exasperated impatience and contempt. But to a great many others, 
the subhumans began to appear as people who inspired a certain 
sympathy and affection. These attitudes and emotions, rising more 
and more commonly among the increasing numbers of Americans 
who came to live and work in China in this period, were com- 
municated to a steadily widening audience at home. It was an audi- 
ence that grew over the years and decades as events of great 
magnitude linked Chinese and Americans in matters of continuously 
growing moment. These were precisely the growing-up years of most 

59 "Missionaries were not entirely guiltless of taking advantage of the situation 
to further their interests/' Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in 
China, pp. 520 ff. For a savage contemporary comment on this matter by Mark 
Twain, see 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness," reprinted in The Portable Mark 
Twain, New York, 1946, pp. 594-613. 


of the members of our panel, and the impact of these changing 
images and attitudes is plainly visible upon them. 

A great many events funneled their consequences into this process, 
some small and meaningful in the lives of particular individuals, 
some portentous in the lives of nations. To review the details of all 
this experience in terms of evolving American perceptions of the 
Chinese is a task that still waits on interested scholarship. In all the 
unending writing of books about China by Americans, very little of 
this has ever been consciously or systematically done, appearing if at 
all only implicitly or in sporadic parentheses. All we can hope to do 
here is to prospect for traces of the nature and location of the great 
divide between these two half-centuries of contact between Amer- 
icans and Chinese, to discover the main routes by which the exasper- 
ated devotion of the first passed over into the devoted exasperation 
of the second and, in the form of some ideas and perhaps some 
token footnotes, to leave markers where there is surely much else to 
be found. They will, I think, at least indicate the environments in 
which so many of the Americans interviewed in the course of this 
study came to acquire so many of the notions and attitudes that 
govern so much of their thinking about the Chinese. 

New Starting Points 

It was in Asia at the turn of the century that the United States 
entered world politics as a principal. In the form given to it by John 
Hay, the Open Door policy became a pillar of a new American 
diplomacy. This period is marked by American participation in the 
Boxer events; the war with Spain and the acquisition in the Philip- 
pines of America's first colony; the burgeoning of all sorts of schemes 
mostly abortive for American financial involvement in Chinese 
development; the American role in settling the Russo-Japanese War; 
the opening of the power conflict with Japan. Just before the First 
World War, the Department of State began to send junior Foreign 
Service officers to China and Japan as language students, the first 
of a cadre that came to include many who played leading roles in the 
more turbulent diplomacy of a later day. This growing American 
involvement in Asia's affairs underpins the new look which many 
Americans began to turn on the Chinese during these years. 

In China itself, events had brought changes in the mutual status 
of the Chinese and the foreigner, some obvious, some subtle. The 
Boxer episode had shifted the locus of self-assertion in Chinese so- 


ciety. The crushing of the rebellion had totally chastened the Man- 
chu court and sent it sliding down toward extinction. It had stifled 
the xenophobic violence among the rural traditionalists from whom 
the Boxers had sprung. The next antiforeign movement in China 
was of a totally different kind and rose in a totally different segment 
of society: an economic boycott promoted by the merchant class, 
and its target, ironically enough, was the United States. Administra- 
tion of the exclusion law in America had led to a long series of 
incidents in which Chinese merchants traveling to that country 
were grievously humiliated. In retaliation, the merchant guilds in 
Shanghai and Canton in 1905 launched a boycott of American 
goods and firms. This was a new kind of weapon and marked the 
first stirring of new nationalist impulses destined to grow in scope 
and force in China over the coming years. That it was directed in 
the first instance against the Americans is apt testimony to the gap 
that could exist between Chinese images of Americans and the 
Americans' image of themselves, for they were at this time still full 
of self-congratulation over having saved China from dismember- 
ment through John Hay's diplomacy. The boycott agitation in China 
led to a few acts of violence against Americans in 1906, President 
Theodore Roosevelt who "did not have that somewhat sentimental 
though wholly honorable regard for the Chinese with which we have 
been made familiar in the last few years" 60 actually moved troops 
to the Philippines with the thought of retaliating against China by 
new military action. Oswald Garrison Villard's Nation described the 
government's reaction this way: 

The attitude of our government in brief is one of distrust and con- 
tempt, and smacks of the same spirit which makes the average American 
look upon every Chinaman as an underfed and overworked laundryman, 
to be kicked and stoned. 61 

But new pressures were already altering the older reactions. In the 
United States there was a certain revulsion against the maltreatment 
of the Chinese, and agitation started up to correct the worst abuses 
in the administration of the exclusion law, although there was no 
question of the validity of the law itself. In China, while the boycott 

60 Tyler Dennett, Roosevelt and the Russo-Japanese War, New York, 1925, 

61 Nation, February 17, 1906. Quoted by Jessie A. Miller, China in American 
Policy and Opinion, 1906-1909, Ph.D. thesis, Clark University, 1940. 


only slightly pinched the businessmen, it found the missionaries 
more sensitive. They had begun to feel the opening of golden new 
opportunities, and they began to press hard and successfullyfor 
a more conciliatory course of conduct. 

Actually, the boycott movement of 1905-06 had come as a sur- 
prise, a student of the period has noted, because, as a New York 
newspaper put it: "Kicking back in that quarter was the last thing any 
white man had expected/ 7 62 For with the Boxer blood bath, the for- 
eigner in China had emerged from the decades of difficult, harried, 
and often dangerous life he had led and had begun a new era of 
sunny security. For the next two decades or so, from the Boxer events 
to the nationalist upheavals of 1925-27, the foreigner was physically 
safer in China than he had ever been before. The breakdown of 
Chinese institutions, the fall of the dynasty, the aborted republic, 
the rise of war-lordism, all brought immense travail upon the Chi- 
nese themselves. But except for rare lapses, not upon the foreigner. 
His person was sacrosanct, his concessions, settlements, and special 
privileges unchallenged, and even his mission compounds in the 
hinterlands all but inviolate. Only isolated acts of banditry marred 
the perfect order of his comings and goings amid the vast disorder 
of Chinese life. The foreigner was lord in the land, a member of 
the master race ascendant, and he enjoyed every day the great satis- 
factions of high individual visibility, deference, and accepted supe- 
rior status. He could now afford, if he would, to look with kindlier 
tolerance on the people and the life around him. 

For the Chinese, the Boxer Rebellion had been the last feeble 
challenge of traditionalism to the inevitability of change. The crush- 
ing of the rebellion, the drastic punishments and penalties heaped 
upon China by the Powers, all but broke the back of the dying Man- 
chu Dynasty. Its heavenly mandate was clearly running out. More- 
over, the adhesives in Chinese society itself were flaking away. The 
proud and obtuse recalcitrance of the Chinese based on their belief 
in their own real superiority over the rapacious foreign barbarian 
could no longer be so generally maintained, even as a face-saving 
fiction. In the broadest sense, the old Chinese social order was finally 
giving way after more than half a century of Western assault. Sur- 
vival demanded change. Those classes of Chinese most directly af- 
fected turned from blind resistance to accommodation, and this shift 

62 Commercial and Financial Chronicle, August 12, 1905. Quoted by Miller, 
op. eft., p. 57. 


became perceptible after 1900 through all the levels of Chinese so- 
ciety that were in contact with the foreigner. 

The Missionary's Golden Age 

The collapse of Chinese resistance to foreign influence opened the 
way for foreign education. The great flow abroad was to Japan; after 
1895, b ut especially after 1905 when Japan electrifyingly inflicted the 
first modern Asian defeat on a Western power, upper-class Chinese 
sent their sons in large numbers to discover the secrets of Japanese 
success. Chiang Kai-shek himself was one of these. He was in military 
school in Tokyo when the Manchu Dynasty fell in 1911. 

It was in fact the fear that Americans would lose out in grasping 
this new opportunity that led, among other things, to the famous 
remission of the Boxer indemnity for educational purposes. The anti- 
American boycott agitation had led to some ''dismissal of American 
teachers and the banning of American books from Chinese schools." 
As this happened just at the time when Japan was gaining enor- 
mously in prestige because of her victory over Russia, a cry of alarm 
went up, from American educators and even from some businessmen. 
There was a public demand for steps to attract Chinese students to 
the United States so that they might "act as commercial mission- 
aries/' lest Japan, Germany, and Britain benefit alone from China's 
"awakening/' The most eloquent and widely publicized appeal of 
this kind came from a college president, who argued that had the 
United States acted differently over the preceding years, she would 
"have been controlling the development of China in that most satis- 
factory and subtle of all ways through the intellectual and spiritual 
domination of its leaders." 63 The matter was pressed convincingly 
upon a reluctant Theodore Roosevelt, and he finally agreed to a 
project for remission of the unused balance of the Boxer indemnity, 
which was duly voted by Congress in 1908 and took effect in 1909. 
It provided the sum of about $11,000,000, which, it was tacitly 
understood, would be used to finance education for Chinese students 
both in China and in the United States. This act is still invariably 
cited as a peculiarly symbolic example of American benevolence to- 
ward China. It is hardly ever mentioned, or indeed seemingly even 
recalled, that the money was Chinese money in the first place, 
exacted as a punitive indemnity, and that the sum remitted was the 

65 Quoted by Milkr, op. cit., p. 132. 


balance remaining only after all American damage claims and costs 
had been amply and perhaps more than amply covered. Here the 
United States strikes the far more accurately symbolic posture of 
the stern guardian relenting, without cost to himself, toward a 
previously rebellious but now wholly chastened ward. 

Besides this governmental largesse, private American funds poured 
out to support expansion of mission work in China. The weekly 
offerings of millions of Americans many of our panelists among 
them began mounting to totals ranging from about two to about 
four million dollars a year to save, elevate, and educate the Chinese. 
In addition, the Rockefeller and other great fortunes moved more mil- 
lions of dollars via various foundations into the endowment of hospitals 
and colleges. These were the years in which Americans kept hearing 
as was so frequently mentioned in the interviews that the Chinese 
were deeply grateful and strongly responsive to the aid they were 
receiving. They poured by the thousands into mission schools, and 
the good work spread throughout the land. The post-Boxer decades 
became the golden age of missionary enterprise in China, the high 
point of Chinese acceptance of foreign, and especially American, 

Dozens of new mission societies entered the China field in this 
period. By 1925 there were 27 mission colleges and universities in 
China, of which 21 had been founded since 1900. In the year 1925, 
when events were already signaling the end of the golden age, these 
mission institutions had about 3,700 students and had graduated 
some 4,300. Below college level, there were 300,000 Chinese students 
in Protestant mission schools and 260,000 in Catholic schools, these 
including missions of all nationalities. Protestant communicants were 
said to number about 700,000 and Catholics about twice that many. 64 

These were droplets in the great sea of 400 million; still for Amer- 
ican missionaries they represented great accomplishment. The hos- 
tility and indifference of the pre-igoo days had not exactly been 
succeeded by the wholesale descent of the Holy Spirit on the great 
masses of the Chinese. But the missionary effort was no longer an 
obscure failure. The country was covered by its institutions, a small 
but important segment of the population had come under its influ- 
ence. More widely and more potently, perhaps, than many mission- 
aries realized, the mission schools flung open the doors to a new era 

w China Year Book, Shanghai, 1925, 1926. 


for the emerging generation of China's leaders. Christian and West- 
ern education produced notable recruits for almost every kind of 
leadership in the subsequent development of Chinese politics except 
one capable of creating a democratic movement based on Christian 
liberal-humanitarian principles. This is another one of the many 
facets of this history awaiting critical re-examination. What concerns 
us here is that the flocking of Chinese into the schools set up by for- 
eign missionaries during the first twenty-odd years of this century 
helped to create a whole new set of relationships between foreigners 
and Chinese and to create a whole new set of attitudes, at least on 
the part of the foreigners. 

The new and rapid growth of their enterprise, placed a great many 
missionaries in direct superior-subordinate relationship to a consider- 
able number of Chinese. This produced its frictions in matters of 
staffing, handling money, carrying through prescribed programs, for 
Chinese ways of doing things seldom resembled American notions 
of efficiency. This produced much exasperation, borne as far as pos- 
sible with fortitude and patience. 65 On the other hand, the great 
expansion of mission education brought a much larger number of 
missionaries than ever before into much more benignly sympathetic 
relations with a great many Chinese. They could enjoy not only the 
privileges of their status as foreigners, but the far more richly satisfy- 
ing honor and deference which the Chinese traditionally accorded to 
their teachers. It took a thickly crusted individual indeed to do less 
than deeply appreciate this experience. To illustrate the warmly ex- 
pansive effect of being both a foreigner and a teacher in China, here 
is a passage written in 1919 by a prominent missionary educator: 

During his furlough at home the missionary more than once feels the 
lack of courtesy for which the Far East is famed. He is accustomed in the 
Orient to seeing students rise and bow at the beginning of the recitation, 
and he feels ill at ease when no one at the occidental university takes 
note of the entrance of the professor, and the opening sentence of the 
lecture cuts across a buzz of conversation. 66 

65 Cf. Orville A. Petty, ed., Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry, Fact-Finders' 
Reports, China, Vol. V, Supplementary Series, New York, 1933, p. 47. 

66 Earl Herbert Cressy, "Converting the Missionary," Asia, June, 1919. 
Cressy also described how when visiting friends in America he would be shown 
on parting simply to the apartment door and be left to find his own way out of 
the building. "The first time this happens, he cannot help feeling a little queer 
as he recalls how some official had the great doors of the yamen opened and 
bowed him out with all ceremony." No American yamen opened its great doors 


Two members of our panel whose own first experiences in China 
date from this same period summoned up the same pleasant mem- 
ories as part of their explanation for their warm feelings about the 
Chinese. A noted scholar who first went to teach in China in 1910 
had his mind scratched for life by "the courtesy of the boys and 
students/ 7 and a retired public servant with a lifetime China career 
behind him thought almost first of all of the students who were "so 
pleasant and respectful in class" when he taught them at a mission 
school between 1909 and 1914. 

The Chinese students of this era were often much more than 
merely polite. They respected not only the teacher but also what he 
had to teach, and for the right teacher this could be a richly stimulat- 
ing experience. Of the students he encountered as a visiting lecturer 
in Peking at this time, John Dewey wrote: 

There is a maturity of interest far beyond that which marks American 
students of the same years. . . . [They] would listen soberly and intel- 
ligently to lectures on subjects that would create nothing but bored 
restlessness in an American school. There is an eager thirst for ideas 
beyond anything existing, I am convinced, in the youth of any other 
country on earth. 67 

Many of the missionaries who came to China in this period had 
a new concept of their calling. Many came not as evangelists but 
rather as teachers, doctors, social workers. Old-fashioned brimstone 
fundamentalism was still very present, but the "higher criticism" had 
its products too, and it was no longer always necessary for a mis- 
sionary to regard any non-Christian culture as unrelievedly sinful 
and its heathenism as totally without virtue. A more inquiring and 
respectful attitude toward Chinese society became more common. 
This was more than an intellectual pose; it came to some out of 
living experience. In the more relaxed and friendly circumstances, 
many a missionary was almost insensibly acclimatized. He began not 
only to learn more about the life of the people around him, but also 
to savor it and once in a while even to become part of it. For some 
missionaries, at least, the First World War contributed much to this 
onset of greater humility. It made Western civilization look a good 
deal less superior, it made some Christians less supremely confident 

for the headmaster of an obscure school. The Chinese way of doing things was 
obviously more satisfactory. 

67 "New Culture in China," Asia, July 1921, p. 586. 


of their own virtue and rightness. It severely shook the conviction of 
invincible progress always held up hitherto as a contrast to the dying 
stagnation of China and Chinese outlooks. The war, indeed, and 
especially its Russian aftermath, stirred Chinese youth to accept 
ideas that few missionaries could appreciate or follow. But it did 
move some of the latter to a more charitable view of the civilization 
they had always previously wished to make over in their own image, 
Thus Earl Cressy, again, on the conversion of a missionary: 

He had come to the Far East with a message that he was on fire to 
give, but in the process of transmission the East had spoken its message 
to him. He had gone out to change the East and was returning, himself 
a changed man. . . . The conversion of the missionary by the Far East 
results in his being not only a missionary but an internationalist, an 
intermediary between the two great civilizations that inherit the earth. 
Abroad he represents a universal religion, and is himself an embodiment 
of the strivings of the West to attain its ideals of social justice and world 
brotherhood; at home he is constantly changing the attitude of the 
millions of his constituency . . . bringing to them something of his new 
breadth of vision, and helping them to a larger appreciation of the 
greatness and worth of the civilization of the Far East. 

The Sinophiles 

Not only missionaries were engaged in the business of "changing 
the attitude of the millions" of Americans at home about the Chi- 
nese. In the two decades following the First World War, many 
Americans went to China in a great variety of roles as businessmen, 
diplomats and officials, newspapermen, scholars, educators, or simply 
curious wanderers. They were numerous enough there were about 
13,000 Americans in China in the peak years of the 19 jo's and 
varied enough in calling to make their influence felt at home in all 
the circles where the members of our present panel grew up, were 
educated, and spent their working years and this includes almost 
everywhere in the world of affairs. In our panel a great majority 
(138 out of 181) had never been to China, but almost all at one 
time or another had met someone who had. The impressions of the 
Chinese they gleaned from these encounters are almost uniform in 
tenor. Some examples out of many: 

I know some officials who worked in China. All have great sympathy 
for the Chinese people, their feeling almost one of brotherly affection, 
understanding, and sympathy. . . . 


There was Dr. S who did public health work in Chinese vil- 
lages, always spoke of Chinese as "my fellow peasants/ 7 

One of my associates made a business trip there a long time ago. 
Came back quite impressed. . . . Others who have been there always 
seem to like the people. 

Newspaper people who have been there have great admiration for 
the Chinese people, sensitive sort of wonderful people to deal with in 
all except official dealings. , . . 

Know a lot of Americans from China. They love the Chinese, think 
they're wonderful. I really don't know why. Remember a friend telling 
me how the Chinese said "can do" and did impossible things, made 
something out of nothing, practical, ingenious kind of people. . . . 

Businessmen like China and the Chinese very much. Can't recall 
anybody I've met who I could say didn't like the Chinese as people, 
not the government or the progress they made, but as people. . . . 

In academic life, I'm always running into people who had to do 
with China, uniformly sympathetic to the Chinese people. . . . 

Never met an American who's been in China who didn't have 
affection for China . . . they seem to fall in love with China. . . . 

Always highly emotional about China, great devotion, love the Chi- 
nese, admired Chinese qualities, engaged their affections. Everybody 
has pet Chinese students. Remember this when I was at school. 
Always protective to the Chinese 

All China Americans seem to have liked or been fascinated by the 
Chinese. The Old China Hand phenomenon. All ages. Just really love 
the country and the people. . . . 

Once they've been to China they become China hands and stay that 
way. I've asked them why and they say they like the energy and atti- 
tude toward life and living of the Chinese, vigorous people. . . . 

The K s lived there in 1936, lived a charmed life, brought 

back beautiful things. Unlimited delight and appreciation of China, 
especially re the upper-crust Chinese world. . . . 

American scholars would take for granted the pleasant fruitful na- 
ture of their relationship with their Chinese opposite numbers, jovial 
understanding. General warm friendly feeling, almost as an abstraction. 
A great mystery to me. 

They would see Chinese as constructive, solid, sensible, agreeable, 


mixed up with pleasurable life of foreigners in China. This is quite 
important. The aura of extraordinary pleasure of foreign life in China 
in the age of concessions is very heavy. ... I never really understood 
this passionate devotion to China. . . . 

The Americans who appear as the carriers of such marked Sino- 
philia are actually of many kinds, and they speak of their experience 
with different accents. Aside from the missionaries, with whom we 
have already dealt, we can discern among them several major groups. 

THE "OLD CHINA HANDS": To those who shared in the China 
experience in the years before the Second World War, the term 
"old China hand" had a quite specific meaning. It signified the old- 
time treaty port resident who had never outgrown the outlooks and 
attitudes of the previous century. It was usually used to describe the 
veteran British businessman, whose mode of life and manners many 
American later-comers tended to ape. Latterly in the United States 
the term has come to be applied to anyone who lived in China in 
the good old days before Mao Tse-tung, but anybody who did not 
share the treaty port outlook and is aware of the older meaning of 
the phrase still winces when it is misused at his expense. 

Many a missionary, to be sure, was all but indistinguishable from 
the "old China hand," especially if he was of the older generation. 
But the treaty port businessman, for his part, normally did not share 
or highly respect the missionary's do-gooding impulse, had no interest 
at all in soul-saving, and was even often quite suspicious of the un- 
settling effects of too much education of the kind the mission schools 
offered to the Chinese. According to the typical possessor of what 
was called "the Shanghai mind," the Chinese did "not want to deal 
with us on a basis of equality, which they are not equipped by nature 
or historical experience to appreciate," and the effort of the mission- 
ary to "cultivate a sentimental regard for China" was nothing short 
of "dangerous" and "demoralizing." 68 

The nostalgia for China expressed by the "old China hand" was 
most likely to be for his own life there, his clubs, his comforts, his 
profits, his easy ascendancy. He generally would value the Chinese 
chiefly as adjuncts to his own well-being. The upper-bracket business- 
man could lead a kingly existence indeed, but even to the lowlier 
members of the master race came all the appurtenances of high caste 

68 Rodney Gilbert, What's Wrong With China, New York, 1932, p. 303. 


and high creature comfort at low cost. Unlike their more directly 
colonial counterparts elsewhere in Asia, these foreigners bore no 
responsibility to the place or people; they were unsubject to its laws 
and unburdened by concern for any welfare but their own. Thus 
situated, they could often develop a certain air of expansive tolerance 
toward the people around them, accepting the rascality of their 
servants and even of their business counterparts with a kind of 
patronizing affection. The late Carl Crow's books, 400 Million Cus- 
tomers and The Chinese Are Like That, were the products of a more 
detachedly inquiring mind and a great appreciation of the humors 
of Chinese ways. But Carl Crow, it has to be said, was a newspaper- 
man in China long before he became a businessman, and even his 
light and affectionate accounts are not quite free of the underlying 
patronage of the Chinese common to his milieu. 

A businessman member of our panel, whose own years in China 
were in the 1920*5, suggested the quality of this nostalgia perhaps 
most succinctly: 

In my time everybody loved China. The white man was respected to 
a high degree. We loved the way of life. Business was good. The white 
man was master. It was a cheap place to live. There were varying views 
of the Chinese, but generally people were pretty fond of them. 

THE PEKING MEN: A nostalgia of quite another kind is identified 
mainly with the nonmissionary, noncommercial expatriate colony 
that grew in China during these years, with its primary interest in 
one or another aspect of Chinese culture, and with its heart and 
center in the ancient and beautiful city of Peking. 

As the official seat of the government until 1928, Peking had be- 
come the playground for a typical legation "set 77 which lived a 
largely insulated life of its own, in but not of China. But even before 
the First World War, some retired missionaries and ex-officials of 
various nationalities had begun to settle in that unique city, among 
them some who had developed over their years in China a command- 
ing intellectual or aesthetic interest in some aspect of Chinese life 
or history. During and after that first war, Peking became a greater 
university center, the principal site of the great shift from the classi- 
cal tradition to modern, Western-style education. Here flocked the 
cream of China's student youth, and growing numbers of foreign 
scholars and educators, some to stay for long terms, others, like the 


philosopher John Dewey, for brief but impactful visits. Here neo- 
phyte Sinologues, missionaries, and diplomats went to the Peking 
Language School, where at least some of them found the keys to 
an immense range of new and eagerly explored interests. Their re- 
spect was won and their minds stirred by the great past, the impres- 
siveness of the literature and the annals of the dynasties, the history, 
the art, or the visible relics and legacies of it all the temples, the 
walls, the palaces, the countrysides encrusted with the many layers 
of the millennia. All time seemed spread out there on the Peking 
plain, and the searcher could penetrate it at almost any point and 
find rich satisfaction of almost any interest, however narrow, how- 
ever near or distant in history. 

In this flourishing academic and intellectual community, a great 
many Americans and other foreigners lived in an atmosphere planets 
away from that of the treaty ports. They met with their students as 
honored teachers, with their Chinese colleagues and friends as equals 
with common interests, and with people generally on a basis of 
mutually friendly curiosity. Here too came art collectors, wandering 
writers and journalists, and all sorts of disaffected people moved 
from their customary places by the urges of the restless 1920'$ and 
i930 7 s. All together they shared the spacious, placid life of the old 
capital, most of them indifferent to the comings and goings of the 
successive war lords and rulers who moved in and out of Peking 
during these years. They lived graciously in and around ancient stone 
courtyards, poking around libraries, temples, palaces, market places, 
in the surrounding fields and villages and up into the nearby blue 
hills. All sorts, all kinds found niches for themselves, enjoying in 
their many different ways all the humors and beauty of Peking life. 
Part of each year great winds blew dust storms down upon them 
from the Gobi. But the rest of the year, under its wide, clear skies 
and its rich color, Peking exercised upon them its indescribable qual- 
ity of timelessness and charm. Still largely untouched by the de- 
forming ugliness of modern commerce, undefaced by factories, it was 
still the home of great artisans and handicraftsmen. It was filled with 
the magnificent monuments and artifacts of a past so long since gone 
and yet somehow, in that city, so extraordinarily alive. 

It is this Peking man, and his similars unfortunate enough to have 
lived elsewhere in China, who gives to this nostalgia about China its 
most poignantly affectionate quality. He is scattered now in many 
different places following many pursuits. But wherever he is, he is 


the true exile from what was probably the most satisfying interlude 
of his life. It was sometimes genuinely intellectual or aesthetic, per- 
haps sometimes arty or even precious, but it was almost always 
hedonistic in the most complete sense of that word. These individ- 
uals were comparatively few in number, but they were in their time 
the authors of many books, the writers of much correspondence, 
lecturers on innumerable platforms, highly articulate communicators, 
all of them, of the special quality of their special emotion about 
things Chinese. 69 

THE CHINA-BORN: Most of these expatriates became Sinophiles by 
chance. But among them in these years also appeared a considerable 
number committed to China by birth. These were in most cases the 
sons and daughters of missionary families, typically raised in mission 
compounds, sent back to the United States at high school or more 
commonly at college age. Many remained there, but quite a few no 
one knows how many returned to China as missionaries, teachers, 
administrators, doctors, specialists and technicians of various kinds. 
Some entered academic careers outside the missionary orbit, some 
went into business or into other professions, and a good number into 
the American Foreign Service, forming an early cadre among the 
language officers in Peking and going on to diplomatic careers spent 
largely, in several notable cases, in China itself. 

The nature and role of these China-born Americans, as persons 
and as figures in American-Chinese affairs, still awaits someone's 
closer look. At present we have little more than fragmentary single 
impressions. We know that many of them spent their Chinese child- 
hoods peculiarly isolated from the Chinese among whom they lived. 
Their whole position as superior foreigners, and as superior foreigners 
whose parents were trying to bring to the Chinese a superior creed, 
set up barriers between them and their Chinese environment which 
few indeed were really able to breach. Their parents, moreover, natu- 

69 In what could be its most extreme form, this experience is described by 
George Kates in The Years That Were Fat, Peking, 1933-40, New York, 1952. 
For some of the titles of books written out of this setting on subjects ranging 
from Manchu court life to the Chinese theater and Chinese gardens, see Dulles, 
China and America, p. 178. Many a foreign writer's novel has tried to recapture 
the magic of Peking, but for some suggestion of its atmosphere, the reader is re- 
ferred to the descriptive passages in Lin Yutang's novel, Moment in Peking, New 
York, 1939, and the interlarded essays on the changing Peking seasons in Lau 
Shaw's The Yellow Storm, New York, 1951. 


rally intent upon preserving their Americanness, often consciously or 
unconsciously kept the bars as high as they could. The schools estab- 
lished for missionary children in China were generally segregated 
schools. They were sent home in adolescence, before any deeper 
relationships with Chinese of the same or the opposite sex could 
develop. 70 Back home in the United States, these young people often 
had to cope with being "different" from their fellows because of their 
unusual backgrounds, and our interview notes include from one of 
them a description of how painfully he tried to efface all vestiges of 
his China birth from his mind in order to qualify for more natural 
acceptance in the American environment. 

But whatever the nature of their childhood or youthful experi- 
ences, it is certain that the China-born were people whose lives and 
personalities were decisively shaped not only by emotional involve- 
ments with their parents as people like everyone else but with 
their parents as missionaries, and with their parents as missionaries 
in China. Every one of them had to order these three dimensions in 
some pattern in coming to terms with himself. Some, we know, 
never succeeded in doing so. Among those who made their own 
careers in China, a number have exerted a visibly strong influence on 
the pattern of American thinking about the Chinese. In our inter- 
views, the China-born appear with remarkable frequency, remem- 
bered as classmates, as kin or fellow townsmen, as colleagues or 
associates in university, government, or business. With rare excep- 
tions they appear as carriers and communicators of a deep or at least 
a noticeable attachment to the faraway land of their birth. 

Some of these individuals made their impression on a scale wider 
than that of the individual encounter, a few have played nationally 
prominent roles: John Leighton Stuart, former missionary educator 
who became United States Ambassador to China in the critical post- 
war years; Henry Luce, publisher of Time and Life, John Paton 
Davies, late of the Department of State; and finally one who, strictly 
speaking, was not China-born at all, but who is perhaps the most 
China-identified American of this generation: the novelist Pearl 

70 There seems to have been hardly any history of intermarriage with the 
Chinese among members of the missionary community and only the rarest in- 
stances of extramarital lapses involving Chinese. The system was quite heavily 
bulwarked, both institutionally and psychologically, against any kind of love 
aside from the pastoral, the parental, the avuncular, or the platonic, at least as 
far as relations with the Chinese were concerned. 


Pearl Buck's Chinese 

Of all the Sinophiles who have tried to depict and interpret the 
Chinese for Americans, none has done so with more effect than 
Pearl Buck. No single book about China has had a greater impact 
than her famous novel, The Good Earth. It can almost be said that 
for a whole generation of Americans she "created" the Chinese, in 
the same sense that Dickens 'created 77 for so many of us the people 
who lived in the slums of Victorian England. The extent of her 
influence is illustrated in our own panel by the fact that 69 individ- 
uals spontaneously mentioned Pearl Buck as a major source of their 
own impressions of the Chinese 71 and these were almost uniformly 
impressions of a wonderfully attractive people. 

Pearl Buck happened "quite accidentally" to be born in the United 
States while her missionary mother was home recuperating from an 
illness. She was carried back to China when she was three months 
old and lived there most of her next forty years. Of her childhood 
in a missionary compound she has written these illuminating lines: 

I had a few dolls, but my "children" were the small folk of the servants 
quarters and the neighbors and we had wonderful hours of play. ... I 
remember going to bed at night replete with satisfaction because the day 
had been so packed with pleasurable play. . . . 72 

She early abandoned the missionary claims and creed, seeking her 
satisfactions in both private and public life in a more encompassing 
emotional attachment. In her relations with Chinese, in particular 
and in general, and indeed, with the whole world and all the people 
in it, Pearl Buck has tried to be warmly, competently, and for the 
most part undemandingly, maternal. There is more than this, to be 
sure, in the books she has written, but it is the thread that links her 
to the whole pattern of American-Chinese relationships. 

Her single most successful book, The Good Earth, a novel about 
a Chinese peasant and his wife and their struggle against adversity, 
against the cruelties of men and the angers of nature, appeared in 
1931. It had an instant and immense popular success. According to 

"n Many more would undoubtedly have done so if directly asked. As it was, 
the total of 60 mentions was by far the largest for any book or author connected 
with China. Next largest was 21, for Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China, and 
the next 13 for Lin Yutang, mostly for My Country and My People. 

72 My Several Worlds, p. 17. 


its publishers, the John Day Company, its many editions and reprint- 
ings ran up to an eventual total of more than 2,000,000 copies. 73 In 
1937, ft appeared as a remarkably powerful and successful film that 
was seen over the ensuing years, according to its makers, by some 
23,000,000 Americans and by an estimated 42,000,000 other people 
all over the world. 74 

Book and film together, The Good Earth almost singlehandedly 
replaced the fantasy images of China and the Chinese held by most 
Americans with a somewhat more realistic picture of what China 
was like and a new, more intimate, and more appealing picture of 
the Chinese themselves. Indeed, The Good Earth accomplished the 
great feat of providing faces for the faceless mass. 

One of our panelists a journalist who later in his life spent several 
years in China described the Buck influence this way: 

My first exposure to Asia came through Pearl Buck. China was a place 
on the map to me, with 400 million people who wore inverted dishpans 
for hats, rode rickshas and ate rice with chopsticks. This much I got in 
high school. Then I read The Good Earth. Pearl Buck made people out of 
the Chinese for me. . . . 

This seemed to have been an experience shared by many. In the 
hours that it took to read or to watch, it transformed the blurred 
subhumans into particular human beings for whom a great and mov- 
ing sympathy was evoked by a momentary sharing in the universal 
experiences of mating, parenthood, suffering, devotion, weakness, 
aspiration. The Chinese girl in the story, O-lan, bride, mother, and 
grandmother, and the man, Wang, dogged, strong, weak, and some- 
times sinning, are certainly the first such individuals in all literature 
about China with whom literally millions of Americans were able 
to identify warmly. 

This achievement was something new in American writing about 
China, Pearl Buck did not, for one thing, write about Chinese in 
relation to foreigners, but about Chinese in relation to one another. 
Nor, like Lin Yutang in My Country and My People, which enjoyed 
its own much smaller vogue in this same period, 75 did she concen- 
t's Pearl Buck's other novels with a China background have had over the 
years a total trade edition sale of 640,000. Figures on reprints could not be 

74 Dorothy Jones, op. cit., p. 47. 

75 Published in 1935, My Country and My People sold a total of 55,705 
copies in its trade editions and 26,000 in a reprint edition. 


trate on the charm of Chinese ways and wisdom. Pearl Buck chose 
instead to write about the lowliest of all Chinese, the peasant, and to 
deal with the harshness of his struggle for existence. Some Chinese 
critics complained of this, often out of envy and discomfort, suggest- 
ing that the book was no adequate picture of Chinese life because 
neither they nor their prototypes appeared in its pages. But what 
Pearl Buck was really after was to humanize the Chinese peasant and 
to cast him in the universally understood role of the man rooted in 
the soil, and this she succeeded in doing for most of her large audi- 
ence. For some of her missionary readers, indeed, the book was a bit 
too earthy, but this had no adverse effect on its popularity. 

The times were ready with a welcome for The Good Earth. It 
appeared coincidentally with Japan's attacks on China. In a way that 
never could have been accomplished by event or propaganda, it 
humanized the people who became Japan's principal victims. The 
film based on the book appeared when Japan's piecemeal attacks 
had broadened into a full-scale war and American sympathy for the 
Chinese had become a powerful national emotion. Although it did 
not deal with the war itself, it gave the quality of individual recogni- 
tion to the figure of the heroic Chinese peasant or peasant-soldier 
who offered battle to the Japanese against such great odds in the 
years just before Pearl Harbor. This film, indeed, set the molds for a 
long series of imitative sequels that followed during the war years, 
dramatizing the war itself and China's stand. One of these was a 
filming of one of Miss Buck's own later books, Dragon Seed. In all 
of them, however, Dorothy Jones observes, "the character of the 
Chinese peasant in general follows that dramatized in The Good 
Earth lie is hardworking, strong, persevering, and able to withstand 
the most severe adversities, kind toward children, respectful toward 
elders, all in all an admirable [and] warmly lovable character." 76 

The impressions left on the minds of our panelists, re-evoked after 
the passage of nearly twenty years, suggest that they retained from 
Pearl Buck not the memory of any individual Chinese, but a broad 
notion of what Chinese in general were like. By creating the first 
Chinese individuals capable of impressing themselves on American 
minds, Pearl Buck in effect created a new stereotype. Nobody re- 
membered the evil and wickedness and cruelty also portrayed in her 
book; what they had retained was an image of the Noble Chinese 
Peasant, solid, wonderful, virtuous, admirable. 
76 Op. tit., p. 36. 


It is no accident that the reader of Pearl Buck's novels about China 
acquires an impression of the Chinese in general which is sharper 
and more memorable than any individual character she has created. 
For Pearl Buck herself, when asked directly, willingly generalizes, 
and it is interesting to note that, so often charged herself with senti- 
mentality, the Chinese virtue she values above all else is unsenti- 

When I think of the Chinese, I think of a kind of person I like. He 
is not poetic, but extremely realistic, practical rather than artistic. The 
Chinese artist is never an artist for art's sake. Art is always a means or a 
philosophy with the Chinese. China could not produce a Matisse or a 
Gaugin, certainly not a Picasso. There are no Chinese cubists. The Chi- 
nese is a loyal father and friend. But this has its limits. He is not fantas- 
tically loyal. This loyalty will come to an end if occasion demands it. 
He is common-sensible about everything. . . . The Chinese can be ter- 
ribly cruel. He never loves an animal. He will never die of love. He is not 
egocentric. He is remote from the maudlin in everything. He is a man of 
principle, but not to the point of folly, for his goal is larger than any 
one principle or any one situation. I see these as features of the basic 
character of the Chinese, the basis of all the characters I have created, 
the variety occurring as I discover deviations and combinations of so 
many different kinds. There is some mixture of some or all of these 
qualities in every Chinese I have ever known. Americans seem to me to 
differ more in individual personalities than Chinese do. I feel a greater 
uniformity among them. Their corners are much more smoothed off than 
ours have been. I don't know if under a Communist-controlled society 
the Chinese is becoming a different kind of man. I find it difficult to 
think so. I continue to think of the Chinese who sees everything against 
the background of eternity. . . . 

The chances are that even now, for those who read and are influenced 
by the books of Pearl Buck, it is the image of the Chinese peasant 
that she created that rises to the forefront of their minds whenever 
they think of the Chinese people marshaled under the demanding 
leadership of the Communist zealots. 77 

77 The only other China-born American writer of major popular repute is 
John Hersey. Hersey has been back to China only occasionally since his youth, 
however, and only recently published the first book he has written that has a 
China background, A Single Pebble, New York, 1956. In this little parable-like 
story of a Yangtze tracker, Hersey evokes through the blurred vision of an Ameri- 
can stranger all the familiar images of the perplexingly wonderful Chinese, the 
vigor and deep unlettered learning of the simple riverfolk, their timeless tradi- 
tions, and the values they have that remain impenetrable to the inquiring for- 
eigner. Hersey gives no hint that his own China birth makes them any less 
impenetrable to him. 


The Partisans 

Next to Pearl Buck, the Sinophile who has left the deepest marks 
on the largest number of Americans in the last twenty years has been 
the political partisan. In this figure we find something more than 
the individual admirer of the Chinese who communicates his admira- 
tion to all whom he meets. He is the admirer turned advocate who 
has sought in every possible public forum to urge or attack some 
particular American policy concerning China, to make himself heard 
as the defender or the opponent of some particular Chinese regime 
or even some individual Chinese leader. 

This partisanship has a certain tradition in American-Chinese his- 
tory, in the American self-conception as champion of China's inter- 
ests vis-a-vis other foreign powers. In the last century there was the 
unique case of a former American minister to China, Anson Burlin- 
game, accepting appointment as emissary of the Peking court to 
foreign capitals. Several generations later, the journalist Thomas 
Millard devoted a notable career to advising the Chinese government 
and writing many eloquent books and papers pleading the Chinese 
cause against foreign encroachment during and after the First World 

But generally speaking, interest in Chinese politics within China 
came late among the Sinophiles. In the first decades of what we have 
called the Age of Benevolence, only a few professionals mostly 
journalists and diplomats concerned themselves at all with the com- 
ings and goings of obscure and impotent Chinese premiers, ministers, 
and officials, the marching up and down of the rival armies, the 
rising and falling of more or less eccentric and picturesque war lords. 
Businessmen and missionaries often had to deal with the militarists 
and officials in their day-to-day affairs, but they did so from protected 
positions and never really had to take Chinese politics very seriously. 
To most foreigners, indeed, the war lords and their acolytes were for 
the most part rather comic figures whose activities were odd, curious, 
or laughable but impinged only incidentally and marginally on for- 
eign lives and interests. They were taken seriously only as proof that 
the Chinese were incapable of effective or orderly self-rule. The 
chaotic disorder of Chinese political life suited the foreigner very 
well indeed so long as his own privileged position remained un- 
touched. Only when this position was again directly threatened as 
eventually it had to be did Chinese politics cease to seem amusing 
or unimportant. 



China's "awakening" so long foreseenwas actually beginning in 
the years that followed the First World War, and for many of these 
foreigners it was bound to be a rude one. In the oncoming revolu- 
tion, many a Chinese father was bound to lose his authority. The 
more or less fondly paternal foreigner could hardly retain his; the 
idyll had to end. The way it ended is the sum of all that has hap- 
pened in China in the last forty years, a history far too full and 
complex to be crowded into any adequate summary in this space. 
What concerns us here is that in these enormously crowded and 
eventful years, the contending forces that rose in China came to be 
mirrored by contending sets of American partisans. These advocates 
presented to the American public wholly conflicting views of what 
was going on in China and ultimately offered wholly different though 
equally ineffectual prescriptions for American policy. These contro- 
versies, winning greater or lesser audiences from time to time, went 
on across many years, coming to a confused climax in the great and 
stormy national post-mortem held in this country in 1950-51 over 
what had happened in China. By that time, these many partisan 
influences had left deep scratches on a great many American minds; 
we came upon them repeatedly during our interviews. 

In the decade or so preceding Pearl Harbor, at least three distinct 
sets of partisans pressed their particular views of China on the Amer- 
ican public. 

The first and feeblest were the surviving defenders of the old 
treaty port system, the possessors of what used to be called "the 
Shanghai mind." To these businessmen and their journalistic spokes- 
men, the emergence of Chiang Kai-shek and his government at 
Nanking in 1927-28 only proved again the noxious effects of the 
"coddling" of the Chinese by misguided missionary zeal. The recur- 
rence of costly civil wars, war-lord satrapies, inefficient and corrupt 
administration, confirmed for them their belief in the futility of 
counting on the Chinese to put their house in order. What they 
wanted was reassertion of foreign rule in China by open force, and 
they wrote more or less passionate books and articles advocating 
their cause. 78 Unfortunately for them, their appeal was heeded not 
by their own government, but by the Japanese, who in 1931 began 

Cf. Rodney Gilbert, op. cit; Hallett Abend, Tortured China, New York, 


their new effort to conquer China. Indeed, at the outset, not a few 
of these partisans welcomed Japan's move as a salutary development. 
They deplored only its singlehandedness and their own govern- 
ment's unwillingness to make it a united venture. The full signifi- 
cance of Japan's action did not dawn on some of them until Japanese 
troops were in occupation of their cherished concessions and they 
themselves sat in Japanese prisons, with time, before being repatri- 
ated, to ruminate over the unkindliness of the times and the un- 
wisdom of those at home who had failed to take their timely advice. 
Many of them ? now scattered in many places, will still tell you that 
a "strong hand" 7 by the Western powers in China in those early 
days would have saved a good deal of later trouble. But their voices, 
echoes of an irretrievably dead past, have long since ceased being 
heard, swallowed in the tumult of great events. The field of Ameri- 
can partisanship concerning China passed meanwhile to two other 
principal groups: those who profoundly admired Chiang Kai-shek 
and those who profoundly admired his Communist opponents. 

The pro-Chiang partisans arose in the beginning almost exclusively 
from among the missionaries. During the events that had brought 
Chiang to power in 1925-27, the missionaries had become again the 
most visible symbols of hated foreign imperialism. Several thousand 
of them had been compelled to flee before the Nationalist advance. 
Many joined the businessmen behind the reinforced treaty port 
garrisons bristling at the concession borders, demanding more troops, 
more warships, stronger action by the Powers, watching the fruits of 
their past benevolence drop from their hands and feeling once more 
in full tide the angry exasperation and hostility inherited from the 
pre-Boxer era. But now there were other missionaries, many quite 
influential, who spoke up for the validity of Chinese nationalist 
claims. Together with a few maverick American journalists who 
took a similar view, they won considerable backing in the mission- 
supporting sections of the American public. At the same time that 
he was establishing his bona fides as the proper recipient of foreign 
and especially American support, Chiang Kai-shek became a Chris- 
tian. He married the American-educated Soong Mai-ling, whose fam- 
ily formed part of the new power elite, and he embraced the 
Methodist creed in which she had been raised. In this new regime, 
now headed by a Christian couple and staffed largely by the products 
of mission schools and American universities, influential sections of 


the missionary movement saw their first hope for full official sanc- 
tion and support for their endeavors. In return for this bright prom- 
ise they gave Chiang and his wife and the Kuomintang regime their 
full, uncritical, and passionate support. From about 1930 on, the 
entire missionary network of communications in the United States 
became the carrier of the most deeply self-persuaded partisanship, 
favoring not merely China or the Chinese, their character, their 
society, or their civilization, but a particular Chinese government 
and its particular leaders. When Japan's full-scale attack on China 
in 1937 raised the whole issue of China's fate to a new level of 
visibility and interest among Americans, Chiang's American mis- 
sionary partisans played a cardinal role in shaping public views and 
influencing official policy. 

The admiring supporters of Chiang Kai-shek had to accept on 
faith his pledge that the "one-party tutelage" of the Kuomintang 
would eventually be replaced by a freer and more democratic regime. 
The actual functioning of the regime made this act of faith a pecu- 
liarly demanding one. There was no democratic opposition to Chiang 
because none was allowed to exist. Almost in the nature of things, 
one had to be invented, and the credit for the first working model 
must unquestionably go to Edgar Snow's famous book, Red Star 
Over China, which appeared early in 1938. 

In the first years of Chiang's rule, a favorable view of the Chinese 
Communist armies, far from sight deep in the hinterland, was pro- 
vided only by the Communists themselves and their more or less 
open sympathizers. They found one of their first and more romantic 
chroniclers in the late Agnes Smedley, whose highly colored, strongly 
partisan, but secondhand early accounts enjoyed a certain vogue 
among the party faithful but not very far beyond. Her books 79 were 
mentioned by only two of our present panelists. But the times were 
providing a widening audience for the Communist case: the depres- 
sion, the rise of Hitler, the outbreak of civil war in Spain, the Comin- 
tern shift from ultraradicalism to the total inclusiveness of the 
"People's Front." In China, this turn took the dramatic form of 
Communist offers to drop their more harshly radical program to join 
hands with Chiang Kai-shek, their mortal foe, if he would only drop 
his policy of nonresistance and take up arms against Japan. This was 

79 E.g., Chinese Destinies, New York, 1933, China's Red Army Marches, 
New York, 1934. 


where matters stood in mid-1936 when Snow, a journalist of some 
years' experience in China, made his enterprising trip into the Com- 
munist areas in China's northwest. Six months after that, the Japa- 
nese began their all-out war. They again attacked Shanghai, where 
Chinese forces resisted spectacularly for nearly four months before 
falling back. In December, 1937, they bombed an American gunboat, 
the Panay, on the Yangtze, killing three Americans, and occupied 
Nanking in an orgy of rapine and slaughter. These events had aroused 
popular American concern, interest, and sympathy for the Chinese 
to an unprecedented pitch, and this was the setting in which Snow's 
image-forming book appeared. 

Red Star Over China gave a highly laudatory account of the Chi- 
nese Communists, their program, their methods, and their practices. 
Like many much less politically susceptible Americans who followed 
him into direct contact with the Chinese Communists, Snow was 
greatly struck by the contrast between the Communists in their 
hinterland refuge and the Kuomintang. When Snow came upon 
them, the Communists were still wholly confined to rural areas, were 
engaged in a major shift to milder and reformist policies, and had 
developed to a fine point their great skill in enlisting the mass of 
peasants in their cause. Snow described this Communist regime as 
"rural equalitarianism." 80 Snow faithfully presented the full party 
line and made it quite plain that the aim remained full conquest 
of Communist power, but it is still probably fair to locate in his 
ardent pages the birthplace of the eventful idea that the Chinese 
Communists, unlike any other Communists anywhere else, were 
nothing but "agrarian reformers." In any case, Red Star Over China 
was well and widely received and had an impact hardly measured by 
its relatively small sale (it went through seven editions with a total 
of 23,500 copies 81 ) or by the fact that 21 panelists mentioned it. 
The book made its deepest impression on increasingly worried and 
world-conscious liberal intellectuals. It began the creation in a great 
many American minds of the impression of the Chinese Commu- 
nists as austere, dedicated patriots as contrasted to the heavy-handed, 
corrupt, and unreliable leaders of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. 

But the "united front" so tenuously formed and held by the 

s Red Star Over China, New York, 1938, p. 211. 

81 According to its publishers, Random House, in September of 1944 it re- 
appeared in the Modern Library series and had six printings of just over 27,000 


Kuomintang and the Communists in China in 1937 was for the next 
few years dutifully reproduced in a "united front" of their respective 
partisans in the United States. The Japanese were invading the land, 
the Chinese were resisting. Strife was muted. There was glory to be 
shed on all. In the large pictures that flashed on American screens, 
there was room now, at least for a while, only for anger and awe and 
admiration. Americans watched from afar as the Chinese stood up to 
the Japanese attack as best they could. Slowly very slowly indeed 
from the Chinese point of view they came to see that China's foe 
was also their own, but they had barely come to the point of acting 
on what they saw when Pearl Harbor made Americans and Chinese 
allies in a common struggle for survival. It was a space of a few years 
when truth and propaganda, fears, hopes, and fuzzy illusions blurred 
together in a hazy drama distantly seen. The many different realities 
of these years will face each other in the contending pages of the 
historians for a long time, but viewed in its place in our present 
history of American perceptions of the Chinese, its character is plain. 
This brief interval is the only one in which wholly sympathetic 
images of the Chinese dominated the entire area of American- 
Chinese relations. Of all the ages through which these images have 
passed, this one alone could be called the Age of Admiration. 


WE HAVE COME by now to the years of the adulthood of almost all 
the members of our panel. By 1931 most of them were of college 
age or older. Whatever had reached them earlier about China had 
in most cases glanced off their youthful minds at odd tangents, leav- 
ing scratches to be sure, but leaving them more or less faintly on 
the outer edges of their awareness. They had acquired thereby a 
variety of images and attitudes which governed some of their think- 
ing and behavior but which, except for a few, had touched no 
central interest in their lives. All this and much more changed in 
the decade that began with Japan's renewed attack on China in 
1931 and ended with its attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. These were 
the years when events involving China made their own most direct 


impact on the individuals whose minds we are presently exploring. 
It has already been noted that when they were asked what events 
had first forced upon them a sense of the importance of Asia in 
American affairs, 48 mentioned the Sino-Japanese conflict of the 
i93O 7 s ? 41 mentioned Pearl Harbor. Taken together with 21 others 
who mentioned earlier events in China and who were of course 
affected deeply by these climactic developments, we have a total of 
no individuals out of 181 for whom this was a peculiarly decisive 
mind-shaping time. 

The recall of "the Sino-Japanese War" or "the invasion of Man- 
churia" or "the attack on Pearl Harbor" actually telescopes a decade 
of experience during which total outlooks were drastically changed 
and every man's own individual life profoundly affected. These 
events marked a great turning in American-Asian history, but they 
were also part of a turning of all history, part of the great and stormy 
passage which carried a great mass of Americans to new conceptions 
of the world and their place in it, wrenching them from their cher- 
ished insulation to reluctant involvement in the world's affairs. 
Japan's initial move in China was only the beginning, and most 
Americans, still held in the traditional grooves of isolation and 
deeply engrossed by the depression, paid it small heed. But explosion 
followed explosion: Hitler's rise, the Ethiopian war, the Spanish 
civil war, Munich, the Stalin-Hitler pact, the Nazi march into Po- 
landthe war in China had become part of the onset of the new 
holocaust. This was a time when history shook every man's life apart, 
and though he might piece it together again, it was never again the 
same. This is what happened to our panelists, in common with all 
their countrymen and great masses of people elsewhere, in the ten 
years that began with an obscure episode in far-off Manchuria some- 
times called "the Mukden incident" and ended with the engulfment 
of the whole world in total war. This nearly universal experience of 
education through catastrophe has already been chronicled in many 
ways and will doubtless be scrutinized and reinterpreted for genera- 
tions hereafter. We are concerned here only with that particular 
piece of the process that had to do with American images of China 
and the Chinese and how they fared amid all the changes. 

In their great bulk Americans did not by any means react at once 
to Japan's attack on China like the aroused parents of beleaguered 
offspring. There were certain traditional American attitudes relating 
to China and to any underdog-bully situation which dictated an 


automatic editorial sympathy for the Chinese in the American press. 
But there was certainly not enough of this sympathy to offset or 
upset the governing conceptions of American self-interest, which 
were still strongly isolationist. This was at least one reason for the 
failure of Henry L. Stimson's effort, as Secretary of State, to organize 
a strong line of international diplomatic resistance to Japan. 

Stimson has given us the picture he had in his mind of "the great 
sluggish population" of China undergoing a vast transformation. He 
was persuaded that "the eventual trans-Pacific relations of the 
United States would be enormously, if not predominantly, affected 
by the future development of the 450 millions of China," especially 
if these "hundreds of millions of hitherto industrious and peace-lov- 
ing people should in their awakening to modern life be transformed 
into an aggressive power, fired by the memories of the wrongs done 
to them by other nations. . . ." 82 Stimson ran into obstacles, not only 
among "the other nations," i.e., the British and the French, who 
believed at that time that Japan's moves served their interests, but 
equally at home, where the conviction governed that Japan's moves 
had nothing to do with any vital American interest at all. This was 
the conviction represented at the policy-making summit by the 
President himself. Herbert Hoover was, indeed, an "old China hand" 
himself, a veteran of the Boxer siege and a sufficient authority on the 
subject of Chinese civilization to marshal his images of China in 
support of his isolationist views. In a memorandum he presented to 
his Cabinet, Mr. Hoover wrote: 

We must remember some essentials of Asiatic life. . . . Time moves 
more slowly there; political movements are measured in decades or cen- 
turies, not in days or months; that while Japan has the military ascend- 
ancy today and no doubt could take over parts or all of China, yet the 
Chinese people possess transcendent cultural resistance; that the mores 
of the race have carried through a dozen foreign dynasties over 3,000 
years, . . . No matter what Japan does . . . they will not Japanify China 
and if they stay long enough they will be absorbed or expelled by the 
Chinese. For America to undertake this on behalf of China might ex- 
pedite it, but would not make it more inevitable. 

Mr. Hoover went on to say that "there is something on the side of 
Japan . . . and we should in friendship consider her side also," and 
after making a persuasive case for Japan's side, he concluded: 

82 The Far Eastern Crisis, New York, 1936, pp. 10-13. 


Neither our obligations to China, nor our own interest, nor our dignity 
require us to go to war over these questions. These acts do not imperil 
the freedom of the American people, the economic or moral future of our 
people. I do not propose ever to sacrifice American life for anything short 
of this. 83 

American passivity toward events in China was encouraged over 
the next five years not only by preoccupation with affairs at home 
but by the fact that Japanese aggression in China took the form of 
small nibbling while official Chinese policy remained one of "non- 
resistance" to Japanese encroachments. There were episodic acts of 
resistance, but these occurred in defiance of the official leadership. 
The most spectacular of these was the thirty-four-day struggle of the 
Nineteenth Route Army at Shanghai in January-February 1932. The 
Shanghai battle was in particular widely reported, since it took 
place at the edge of a protected foreign settlement before the eyes 
of astounded foreign observers and a large corps of hastily assembled 
foreign correspondents from all over the world. It has a special place 
in our present history because it began the transformation of the 
image of an ineffectual Chinese soldiery and a passive population 
into a picture of hardy and brave soldiers and devoted civilians capa- 
ble of great feats when decently led and motivated. Here really 
began the ripples of fear and sympathy which would eventually 
swell into a great tide. 

This did not begin to happen, however, until after July, 19377 
when the Japanese took to arms for keeps and Chiang Kai-shek 
finally began fighting back. Now the China war was heavily splashed 
across the front pages of the American press day after day, and news- 
reel films, entering upon their heyday as an independent medium of 
communication, made their vivid impact week after week on a 
movie-going public. A new and more prolonged Chinese defense at 
Shanghai in the fall months of 1937 sharpened and enlarged the 
new image of Chinese staunchness. 84 It began the process by which 

83 R. L. Wilbur and A. M. Hyde, The Hoover Policies, New York, 19 37^ p. 

84 One of the most successful "propaganda" pieces of all time was a product 
of this battle. It was a photo, taken by a Chinese newsreel photographer, of an 
abandoned Chinese child, injured, bleeding, bawling on its haunches in the midst 
of the smoking destruction of Shanghai's railway station. Life (October 4, 1937, 
p. 102) estimated that 136,000,000 people all over the world saw this photo in 
newspapers or the newsreel of which it was a part. Life readers selected it as one 
of ten Pictures of the Year 1937. 


a popular picture of the Chinese heroically defending their homeland 
against an infinitely more powerful invader gradually grew to much 
more than life-size proportions. In December, 1937, came the Japa- 
nese sack of Nanking, "a saturnalia of butchery" which revolted, 
angered, and aroused a large American public. 85 Of all the incidents 
in this now dimly remembered time, the "Panay incident 77 was re- 
called by members of our panel more frequently than any other, 
and the reason is undoubtedly that it marked for many of them not 
only the awakening of sympathy for the Chinese and indignation at 
the Japanese, but of vital American interest in these distant events. 
The sinking of the Panay raised abruptly for a great many Ameri- 
cans the specter of theii own involvement in the war. 

The war in China was, of course, only one in a kaleidoscope of 
events that were beginning to force Americans to take a new view 
of the world and their place in it. Hitler's shadow was high over 
Europe by now, and many of the complexities of the time were 
enigmatically wrapped up in the civil war in Spain. As the much- 
written record of the time shows, the great majority of Americans 
still powerfully believed that they were uninvolved, that strict neu- 
trality and a curb on nefarious bankers and munitions makers would 
suffice to keep them from being beguiled again as they believed they 
had been in 1917. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his 
famous "quarantine-the-aggressor" speech on October 5, 1937, he 
found himself unaccustomedly alone and had to beat a hasty retreat. 
"It's a terrible thing," he told an aide, "to look over your shoulder 
when you are trying to lead and to find no one there/' 86 

Franklin Roosevelt's associations with China were not, like Theo- 
dore Roosevelt's, shaped by feelings of racial chauvinism, nor based, 
like Herbert Hoover's, on the experience of overlordship. F. D. Roose- 
velt had the romantic view of China, drawn mainly from the fact 
that his mother's family, the Delanos, were merchants in the China 
trade and the Roosevelt family lore was full of the familiar glamor 
of that calling, as apparently lie never tired of telling callers when- 
ever the subject of China was apropos and often when it was not. 

85 For examples see 'The Sack of Nanking/* Reader's Digest, July, 1938, and 
correspondence exchanged under the title "We Were in Nanking/' Reader's Di- 
gest, October, 1938. 

8 <3 Quoted by L. A. Sussman, "FDR and the White House Mail," Public 
Opinion Quarterly, XX, i, Spring 1956, p. 11; cf. Henry L. Stimson, On Active 
Service, New York, 1948, p. 312; Sumner Welles, Seven Decisions That Shaped 
History, New York, 1951, pp. 73-74. 


The other ingredient in his outlook on China, suggests Sumner 
Welles, was supplied by his term as Assistant Secretary of the Navy 
in the Wilson Administration, when he had "become imbued with 
the Navy's conviction that Japan was America's Number i antag- 
onist." Welles says: 

It is quite true that during Hitler's first years in power, the President, 
like most of us, underestimated the extent of the Nazi menace. But he 
never underestimated the danger to the United States in the course of 
aggression on which Japan had embarked in iq^i. 87 

Thus it was possibly not without blessings from the highest places 
that small but powerful groups still at the outer edges of American 
public opinion went strenuously to work at about this time to assist 
events in changing the massive convictions that most Americans 
still held. During 1938 an intensive campaign, inspired and heavily 
staffed by missionaries or mission-connected individuals, was 
mounted to command a more active interest in China's plight, to 
demand a halt to shipment of war materials to Japan, and to combat 
the widely accepted view that to avoid conflict, the United States 
should withdraw all its citizens and armed forces from China. By 
wide circulation of missionary and other eyewitness reports of Japa- 
nese crimes and Chinese heroism, by the organization of committees 
of many different kinds to promote a boycott of Japanese goods, 
to seek "non-participation in Japanese aggression," to send medical 
aid to China--and by strong pressure on Congress and through di- 
rect personal contact with influential leaders, these groups made a 
powerful impact both on public opinion and on government policy. 88 

The course of the war in China provided ample materials for the 
drive to awaken and activate American sympathies and fears. It was 
during the great retreat inland from the coast of China in 1938 that 
the phrase "scorched earth" entered our language. A picture of the 
valor and sacrifices of Chinese soldiers and civilians was exposed, via 
the public prints and the newsreels, to the view of almost every adult 
American. To newsreel films of relentless Japanese bombings, Joris 

8 7 Seven Decisions., p. 66. 

as For a detailed description of this activity see John W. Masland, Mission- 
ary Influence Upon American Far Eastern Policy," Pacific Historical Review, X, 
3 September, 1941, pp. 279-296; cf. also William E. Daugherty, "China's 
Official Publicity in the United States," Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 1942, 
pp. 7086. 


Ivens and John Ferno added in 1938 their famous documentary The 
Four Hundred Million. From these sources dozens of our panelists 
vividly recalled of this period the pictures that showed the long lines 
of Chinese burden-bearers carrying whole factories in bits and pieces, 
each bearing his load and trudging on in endless winding columns 
over the hills leading to China's inner hinterland. Chinese univer- 
sities were moved inland by the same means, and Chinese laborers 
began building by hand, rock by rock and one basket of dirt after 
another, the "Burma Road 77 that was going to restore their connec- 
tion with the outside world. 89 Cartoonists pictured China as the 
slowly waking giant facing the puny Japanese attacker. A Fitzpatrick 
cartoon in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a Chinese peasant in 
the struggle with the caption: "Father Time Is on His Side. 77 Com- 
bat dispatches from the obscure central China fronts rang with the 
phrases: "fighting against fantastic odds with high courage 77 or "they 
stood firm through long weeks while the superbly equipped Japanese 
forces shelled and bombed them without cessation." Advertisements 
appealed to sympathy and to conscience: 

Men, women and children are being killed by the thousands, the Chi- 
nese people whose only crime has been to defend their homes from the 
vicious attacks of the Japanese warlords. . . . Help to halt the most hor- 
rible crime of modern times. Will you knowingly share in the crime of 
invading China? 77 90 

There was enough reality here to bolster unlimited exaggeration and 
an endless mythology. Ideas about the defenders of China became 
common currency among millions of Americans at this time. They 
were heavily personalized in the figures of Chiang Kai-shek and his 
wife. Missionary propaganda concentrated heavily, says Masland, on: 

highly favorable accounts of the Chinese government and high Chinese 
officials. . . . They have never failed to point with pride to the fact that 
a high percentage of the officials of the government have been educated 
in Christian institutions, and that many of them are themselves Chris- 
tians, including Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Madame Chiang has 
practically become a saint to them. 91 

89 Cf. "China Moves Inland/' a condensation of a collection of articles, 
Reader's Digest, May, 1939. 

90 Cf. Asia, March, 1938, p. 267. 

91 Masland, loc. cit., p. 287. 


Time, edited by China-bora, missionary's son Henry Luce, named 
Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang Man and Wife of the Year 

The abandonment or more accurately, the rejection of isolation- 
ist outlooks by a substantial majority of the American public under 
the pressure of events between 1937 and the end of 1941 was one of 
the major occurrences of contemporary American history. Already 
much chronicled, the study of this massive shift will remain unfin- 
ished business for a long time to come; one of its many facets still 
awaiting scrutiny is the relative weight and importance in the whole 
process of events in Asia and events in Europe. We offer here neither 
a summary nor any judgment on this complicated matter; only some 

Most of the members of our present panel aside from those al- 
ready preoccupied with Asia remember themselves at this time as 
being concerned chiefly with domestic American affairs or if they 
looked abroad at all with Europe. This was the normal and quite 
predictable pattern among almost all the educated professionals in 
our society, for whom the non-American world was, until quite re- 
cently, the transatlantic world. Yet, by another one of those para- 
doxes so common in this history, there is much to suggest a greater 
American sensitivity to the threat of Japan than to the threat of 
Hitler's Reich. Hitler had actually been on the march for only a 
slightly shorter time than Japan, but nobody was forming high-level 
American committees to combat Nazi aggression until Britain and 
France stood directly under its shadow. At the outbreak of war in 
Europe there was, away from the North Atlantic seaboard, almost no 
disposition to see America as directly threatened. To a commanding 
segment of the population, it was 1914 all over again, and the thing 
for Americans to do was to avoid repeating what they saw as the 
Wall-Street-inspired mistake of 1917. On the issues which led to 
war, there was never any serious current of pro-Japanese sentiment, 
while there were not a few Americans, of both high and low repute, 
on whom Hitler's Germany was able to count in the propaganda 
warfare that preceded actual hostilities. Actually there was no Euro- 
pean counterpart for the impression of Japan as a sort of traditional 
foe-to-be, an idea which we have seen attributed to Franklin Roose- 
velt and which goes back, among our important public men, to the 
time of the aging Admiral Mahan and to the first Roosevelt's second 
thoughts after Portsmouth. No European power stood in any similar 


position in the world view of Americans, none, at least, since Britain 
had ceased to do so sometime late in the last century. 

Just how the American "public" saw this matter over time is a 
good deal more difficult to say. "Public opinion" has always been a 
more elusive quarry for the historian than the views of individual 
public men. It has usually been deduced from these views, from the 
press, from overt public behavior as in riots or elections and per- 
haps most often taken from the impressions of more or less observant 
contemporaries. For the period we now have under view, the his- 
torian will have available for the first time a body of somewhat more 
precise evidence in the form of the accumulated results of opinion 
polls which began to appear in 1936. These inquiries, based on vari- 
ous kinds of cross-section samples of the national population, were 
crude and were framed by a host of limitations and shortcomings, 
but even at their crudest, they added a new dimension to the ex- 
ploration of the public mind. The future student of American atti- 
tudes in the pre-Pearl Harbor decade will find a marshaler of facts 
like Herbert Feis saying that in the face of Japanese depredations in 
China, "America became angered" and that "the picture of Japan 
before American eyes grew more sinister." 92 In the opinion polls of 
the time he will be able to pass from impressionistic generalizations 
to impressionistic percentages, which he may often find to be more 
graphic and more informative. In the tracings of the public mind 
made by the polls, he may find suggestions for locating the high start- 
ing points and steady recession of the great American belief that 
safety lay in total insulation from the world, and the low beginnings 
and the steady rise of the conviction that this was not so. The polls 
suggest that what the American acquired in this time was not neces- 
sarily an interventionist or internationalist outlook, but the knowl- 
edge that the United States itself was threatened and would have to 
act in its own behalf. What began as a fairly minor and detached 
reaction of sympathy for the Chinese became a much more active 
emotion as the conviction grew that Japan was a dangerous foe, not 
only of China, but of the United States itself. Coming along a little 
more slowly, approximately the same process occurred with regard 
to England and Germany. It was when the two threats coalesced 
that the American isolationist illusion disappeared, at least for then. 

We can take the space here only to sample some of these sam- 

92 The Read to Pearl Harbor, Princeton, 1950, p. 18. 


plings. Here, for example, is the way George Gallup's American In- 
stitute of Public Opinion polls registered the course of American 
sympathies in the Sino-Japanese War: 9S 

"Neutrar "Pro-China 7 "Pro-Japan" 

August, 1937 . . . 55% 43% 27o 

October, 1937 ... 40 59 i 

May, 1939 .... 24 74 2 

An Elmo Roper poll in July, 1938, asked a national sample: "Which 
of the recent foreign military aggressions disturbed you most?" The 
answers: 94 

Japan's invasion of China 29.4% 

Germany's seizure of Austria ...... 22.8 

Outside intervention in Spain 10.3 

Russian treason trials 2.7 

All 6 

None . . . . . 21.3 

Don't know 12.9 

This suggests that there was still at this time at least a third of a 
national sample unmoved by any events abroad, while among the 
rest there was somewhat more of an eye for what Japan was doing in 
China than for what Hitler was doing in Europe. Within two years, 
Hitler's activities in Europe had become cataclysmic enough to shake 
the most deeply imbedded American illusions of security and non- 
involvement. It seems all the more striking, therefore, to note that 
at least in the polls the Nazi conquest of Europe in the summer of 
1940 did not by itself puncture the anti-interventionist majorities. 
Hitler stood at the Channel and tried to reduce Britain from the 
air, and Britain, quite alone, fought back. On the other side of the 
world Japan was bombing Chungking almost as mercilessly and had 
begun its moves southward to new jumping-off places in Indochina 
and Thailand. In September, Japan formally joined the Axis in a 
pact clearly aimed at the United States. It was only after this merg- 
ing of the transpacific and transatlantic threats to American safety 
that the opinion poll majorities shifted ground. For the first time, in 
answers to questions put by the pollsters, majorities began to say that 

93 Public Opinion, pp. 1081-1082. 

94 Public Opinion, p. 1074. 


Japan had to be halted "even at the risk of war" and that it had be- 
come more important to the United States to "help Britain" than it 
was to "stay out of the war. 7 ' 95 

To the very end, the poll majorities clung to the hope that the na- 
tional safety could be maintained by steps "short of war/' but the 
polls clearly trace through the whole course of 1941 the steady growth 
of the conviction that events would decree otherwise. The active 
instinct for self-preservation passed from those who still believed it 
was possible to remain aloof and attached itself to the reluctant 
acceptance of the inevitability of involvement. The manner of the 
climax, Pearl Harbor, was in itself a stunning surprise. But there 
were few thoughtful people for whom the plunge into hostilities was, 
late in 1941, still unexpected. 

The already considerable figure of the heroic Chinese defender of 
his land gained even larger dimensions when he became also our 
heroic ally. The warmth with which he was now hailed and his 
virtues extolled increased just about in inverse ratio to the actual 
American ability to come, at last, to his assistance. The first great 
American and Allied strategic decision was to fight the European 
war first. This left only a trickle of men and means to cope with 
Japan, which swept on from victory to victory through Southeast 
Asia. For the next two years, the great double mirrors of wartime 
news, information, and propaganda had little to reflect from China 
except the story of its heroic glamor. Documentary films raced their 
vivid and moving accounts across American screens (The Battle of 
China, 1942; Inside Fighting China, 1942; Ravaged Earth, 1943) 
and a stream of feature films (Burma Convoy, A Yank on the Burma 
Road, China Girl, The Flying Tigers, God Is My Co-Pilot, etc.) 
began to provide Chinese backgrounds for American heroes as well. 
In 1943, when Mme. Chiang Kai-shek came to the United States to 
plead for more substantial American aid to China, she had an im- 

95 Public Opinion, pp. 973^974, 1076-1077. Feis reports that on October 14, 
1940, President Roosevelt received a "report on the turn of American opinion 
after the Tripartite Pact" as shown by polls made through the Gallup facilities 
by Hadley Cantril's Office of Public Opinion Research at Princeton. One of these 
polls asked: "Should the United States take steps to keep Japan from becoming 
more powerful even if this means risking war?" The answers reported 57 per cent 
as saying "Yes." This change, Feis suggests, was reflected directly in the harden- 
ing of American policy during the ensuing months. Road to Pearl Harbor, p. 


mense public success. Members of the United States Senate "rose 
and thundered" an ovation for her, and after she had spoken to the 

House of Representatives, reported Time, "tough guys melted. "God- 
dam It/ said one grizzled Congressman, 1 never saw anything like It. 
Madame Chiang had me on the verge of bursting Into tears/ " 96 


Pulfir in The Balttaoz* Sts* 


But however it was seen, in fact or half-fact, truth or half-myth, 
well symbolized or poorly, a sympathetic image of the Chinese rose 
now to a unique pinnacle in a mass of American minds. He was no 
doubt grotesquely draped, but there the Chinese figure briefly stood, 

96 Time, March i, 1943. 


rich with all the medals won by his ceaseless coping with an adverse 
fate, his devotion to family and ancient past and his land, his adapt- 
ability, his quenchless devotion to what he valued. After all the long 
ages of contempt and benevolence through which he had lived in 
American minds, the Chinese, largely unbeknownst to him, now en- 
joyed there his finest hour. This was strictly an American, not a 
Chinese experience, and the marks of it are plainly visible still on 
American minds they were still there on the minds of almost every 
member of our present panel despite its brevity and despite all that 
has happened since to the Chinese, their images, and to us. 


THE BRIEF HOURS of enchantment ticked swiftly away and then, as if 
at the last stroke of midnight, they ended and disenchantment set 
in. Americans who came to China on war missions carried with 
them the shining slipper left by the propaganda of the heroic period 
before Pearl Harbor. But there was no happy ending to this story, 
because they found no Chinese on whom it really fit. This does not 
mean that the heroic defenders of China were pure chimera; too 
much real blood had been shed, too many heavy burdens carried, 
too many sacrifices made. These could not be waved away now, as 
though they had been characters and episodes in a fairy tale all along. 
The difficulty was that this had all been seen by too many Americans 
as though it had been a fantasy, seen in a setting divested of all its 
reality. The image-makers in their simple-minded enthusiasm had 
turned China at war into a movie set and had made the Chinese into 
plaster saints, including Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai- 
shek. But the China war was not a movie and the Chinese were not 
saints, plaster or any other kind, least of all the Chiangs. This 
mythology could hardly survive any live experience, and its passing, 
for many, was quite painful. 

The Americans who turned up in China after Pearl Harbor dis- 
covered there a stalemated absence of peace rather than a war. They 
came up against the stricken weariness of the Chinese nation, its 
size and backwardness, its vast array of unsettled problems and un- 


resolved conflicts, the corruption and ineptitude in its high and low 
places, and its lack of a leadership capable of arousing and maintain- 
ing popular support and sustained effort. Because of all this, these 
Americans found it impossible between 1942 and 1945 to overcome 
what appeared to them to be China's utter incapacity to marshal and 
use an effective military force. There was great toil and great effort, 
but the result, in the end, was abandonment of all Allied military 
plans that called for any important culminating effort against Japan 
on mainland China. 

The American experience in China during the war with Japan has 
remained obscure and little known except to the narrowest kind of 
a public. The literature it has produced is remarkably small. Two 
volumes of a military history have been issued by the Department 
of the Army. 97 Several volumes of documents have been released by 
the Department of State. 98 In addition to these pieces of the official 
record, we have had some excerpts from General Stilwell's diaries, a 
personal account from the China air force commander, General 
Claire Chennault, and a scanty handful of titles by journalists and a 
few others." 

The war had turned places on every continent and in every ocean 
into godforsaken holes for young Americans. Wherever they went, 
they were involuntary transplants, unwilling exiles. The claim could 
no doubt be disputed from many another corner, but those who 
went to the China-Burma-India theater unquestionably felt that 
they, of all the men in the war, had been relegated to the most dis- 

97 The United States Army in World War II, China-Burma-India Theater, 
StilwelUs Mission to China, 1953, and Stilwell's Command Problems, 1956, by 
Charles F. Romanus and Riley Sunderland, Office of the Chief of Military His- 
tory, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. 

98 Especially the so-called "White Paper/ 7 United States Relations with 
China, with Special Reference to the Period 1944-1949, Washington, D.C., 1949; 
and Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, China, 1942, 
Department of State Publication 6353, Washington, D.C., 1956. 

99 The StttweU Papers, edited by T. H. White, New York, 1948; Claire 
Chennault, Way of a Fighter, New York, 1949. The only attempt at a detailed 
summary based on official records and papers has been Herbert Feis, The China 
Tangle, Princeton, 1953. The Cumulative Book Index under the heading "World 
War, 1939-1946" discloses, for the years up through 1956, not a single title of a 
book by an American dealing primarily with the CBI wartime experience in India, 
only three or four such books on Burma, and barely two dozen titles on China. 
Of the latter the only one to achieve best-seller status was White and Jacoby's 
Thunder out of China, New York, 1947. Perhaps the fullest account, the 
angriest, and the most intensely personal, will be found in Graham Peck's Two 
Kinds of Time, Boston, 1950. 


tant, the most forsaken, the filthiest, most tiresome, backward, 
ridiculous, and least-regarded byway of the war. "CBI" did, indeed, 
enjoy the lowest priority and make the least imperative demands on 
the attentions of the war planners and the press. Only Claire Chen- 
nault's small band of volunteer fliers at the beginning, the jungle 
battles in Burma, and, later, the extraordinary aerial conquest of the 
Himalayan "Hump" caught at any edges of the popular imagination. 
The nearest thing to a major public personality the China experience 
produced for the American public, aside from Madame Chiang 
Kai-shek, was that crusty old general, Joe Stilwell, who won his mo- 
ment as a minor legend chiefly because he disdained to make excuses 
when he got beaten. No less extraordinary and far more decisive 
events were happening elsewhere across the world. A picture of what 
was going on in the distant dimness of Chiang Kai-shek's China 
could hardly be squeezed onto the screen that had to take in Mac- 
Arthur's Pacific, Roosevelt's America, Churchill's England, Hitler's 
Europe, Stalin's Russia, Montgomery's and Rommel's Africa, and 
the shaping of Eisenhower's massive counterattack, by air and by 
land, on the conquered continent. Millions of Americans were very 
personally involved in these larger events. Amongst all these, the 
200-odd thousand Americans who shared in the obscure experience 
of the China-Burma-India theater of the war formed a small and 
nearly unnoticed number. 

About half of these served their time at bases in India, which they 
found to be a hideously crowded country, or pushing a road across 
North Burma, which they found to be a hot and hideously un- 
populated jungle. The rest crossed the great mountains into China, 
to fly or service planes, to man supply lines, to help train Chinese 
troops. On both sides of the "Hump," the great bulk of these men 
reacted to the people they encountered with feelings that ranged, in 
most cases, from contemptuous disregard to virulent hatred. For- 
bearing only with the greatest difficulty from citing at length my 
own observations on this score, 100 I find among the sparse books on 
the CBI experience a few of the even sparser allusions to this particu- 
lar subject: 

The one abiding sentiment that almost all American enlisted personnel 
and most of the officers shared was contempt and dislike for China. . . . 
They believed that all Chinese were corrupt, inefficient, unreliable. . . * 

100 No Peace For Asia, pp. 7-34. 


They saw the squalor, filth, and ignorance . . . with loathing and revul- 

sion 101 

Graham Peck, who tells a thousand stories of the corruption and 
chicanery to which Americans were exposed during their effort to 
wage war from Chiang's China, speaks of the "bitter personal hatred" 
that "was very common among military men." He found that "many 
Americans let race prejudice lead them to condemn all Chinese" but 
reported most of their reaction as a legitimate anger and disgust at 
the behavior of the Chinese with whom they had to deal. 

I think every American who came to Kuomintang territory on war 
duty has bitter memories of do-nothing attitudes, and of profiteering 
which ranged from the prices the U.S. Army had to pay for airfields to 
the prices GFs were charged in restaurants. 102 

The pattern of reaction to the Chinese among these young Amer- 
icans was in almost all respects quite different from that arising out 
of the previous experience of Americans in China. These were dif- 
ferent Americans they were not missionaries, nor students, nor 
businessmen, and certainly riot curious touristsin a different part 
of China, come to the country under quite different conditions, and 
having almost daily experiences which seldom fell to the lot of the 
prewar Sinophile. Indeed, the occasional Sinophile-in-uniform was 
a lonely and unhappy man in those dark, tired war years in West 
China. One of them was the theater commander, General Joe Stil- 
well. Stilwell had a sentimentally strong regard for the ordinary 
Chinese soldier, whom he regarded as "the best in the world" if 
properly trained, fed, and led. He had with him a handful of China 
veterans and a small cadre of officers who had received some Chinese 
language instruction before coming out to the theater. Among these 
one occasionally encountered individuals who made some of the nec- 
essary distinctions about the people and the situation in China. 
But by far most commonly, the American soldier acquired a power- 

101 White and Jacoby, Thunder Out of China, p. 164. White also refers (p. 
165) to an incident described in No Peace For Asia (p. 21) in which a group of 
correspondents spent an afternoon trying to explain China and the Chinese to 
an audience of American soldiers. At the end of the session one of them walked 
up 7 looked the correspondents over 7 and said: "I been out twenty- four months 
and you know, you're the first guys I ever met that had a good word for the 

102 TWO Kinds of Time, p. 387 and passim. 


fully violent prejudice about the Chinese and could feel that it 
came to him out of his own indelible experience. 

Part of this was the American's arrogant or self-protective reac- 
tion to the poverty, backwardness, and squalor, the features of 
Chinese life which, as we have already noted, led him to see the 
people involved as somehow subhuman. But it also came out of the 
venality, corruption, and brutality these Americans encountered on 
all sides among the Chinese with whom they principally came into 
contact. These were largely the civil and military officials, brutalized 
policemen, and bureaucrats living off a pauperized population. They 
saw ragged soldiers for whom they only rarely had any respect and 
scarcely any pity, even, sometimes, when they saw them die. They 
saw peasants in the fields or passers-by with whom they could estab- 
lish neither a common tongiae nor barely a common thought or im- 
pulse. For the rest, they saw brothelkeepers and black market thieves. 
The young American soldier came away from his China experience 
most typically attributing to the whole Chinese people the charac- 
teristics he found so common in the mass of male and female camp 
followers of both hig^ and low estate who inevitably attached them- 
selves to the American military establishment in China like suck- 
lings to the teats of a sow. Any Chinese who differed from this 
norm was exceptional and highly uncommon. Any American who 
held a different view of the Chinese was a maverick, a "slopey- 
lover," like General Stilwell. Stilwell, as the published portions of 
his diaries show, did not extend his admiration for the Chinese peo- 
ple in general to Chiang Kai-shek and his generals in particular. 
The "slopey-lover" conducted at the summit his losing battle against 
the same venality which provided the principal ingredient of the 
common GI view below. For whether out of some small personal 
experience or out of the common gossip (usually exaggerated but 
rarely wholly false) about the fate of supplies being brought into 
China at such heavy cost, the great mass of these young Americans 
acquired above all else the strong and nearly universal conviction 
that the "slopeys" were a bunch of congenital crooks. 

The interaction between these Americans and the people among 
whom they so strangely and so briefly came has left almost no literary 
trace. Only a few journalists those outriders for the historians- 
have thought it worth mentioning. From among the GFs who spent 
their war in CBI, no novelist has emerged to take this interaction as 


his theme, none, at least, that I have been able to discover. 103 Con- 
sidering the relative meagerness of the literary returns from the war 
as a whole and the persisting indigestibility of the times that have 
followed it, this small, hardly noticeable gap may never be filled 
at all. Historians will doubtless be able to reassemble the pieces of 
skeleton as they are gradually unearthed and enjoy their quarrels 
over the rights and the wrongs of the assembly but the flesh and 
substance of the experience may very well fade completely from 
memory for lack of timely recapture in preservable prose by some- 
one who shared it. 

Scattered in their small number through the population now, 
these CBI veterans have presumably scratched their share of nearby 
minds. In our panel we ran on a few faint traces of this, as when 
a publisher said: 

Some Hump fliers I met during the war told me China was a hope- 
less, bogged-down mess. 

A Washington consultant: 

From people who were there during the war, I got the idea that the 
Chinese were not cooperating as they should, all sorts of black market- 
ing, diversion of materiel. . . . 

A university professor: 

We have had about fifteen or twenty ex-GI's around here who were 
in China, and to judge from them, the Chinese are a bunch of crooks, 
can't be trusted. . . . They seem to feel this pretty strongly. . . . 

At least 20 members of our panel were in China or India at some 
time during that war, most of them in their various capacities as 
specialists. One of them, however, had been a GI enlisted man him- 
self, and he said: 

The GFs hated it. The stealing! Who wouldn't? 

103 Indeed, the only novel I have been able to find that deals with this aspect 
of the wartime American experience in China is Preston Schoyer's The Indefinite 
River, New York, 1947. In this book there are some glimpses of the GI in China 
and some of his characteristic reactions to the Chinese, but Schoyer himself is 
hardly classifiable as an ex-GI novelist. His China experience antedated the war 
he was a teacher at Yale-In-China and his wartime experience took place, as 
does his novel, in a setting that was quite remote from the more typical GI ex- 


The idea of individual chicanery and public corruption was hardly 
a new one in connection with China. It had long been familiar as 
"squeeze" or "graft," institutionalized at almost all levels of Chinese 
life. Among our panelists who knew China, it was knowingly and 
tolerantly accepted as part of the Chinese scheme of things, or cited 
as basis for the well-established image of the Chinese as somewhat less 
than "honest" by ordinary Western or American standards, or, more 
strongly, as the reason why Chinese, in particular or in general, were 
untrustworthy, devious, and downright dishonest. This Chinese who 
could never be trusted in money matters occupied a place in some 
minds right next to "Honest John Chinaman" whose word was in- 
variably as good as his bond and was likely to commit suicide if he 
did not pay up his proper debts on settlement day, both images co- 
existing and coequal and both enjoying a reasonable share of sub- 
stance in the Chinese actuality. 

Certainly with regard to Chinese public affairs, and most partic- 
ularly in the period immediately preceding the war, the prevalence 
of official corruption was part of the common knowledge of all who 
were associated in any way with China. It was, indeed, so well known 
that many of those most familiar with it failed to recognize it as 
part of the rot that was eating away the regime and would ultimately 
cause it to collapse. But then China entered upon its "heroic" 
period, the brief phase of active resistance to Japan. It became un- 
kind, unfashionable, and even injudicious for anyone to call atten- 
tion to the seedier garments hidden by the shining armor. In the 
great romantic mythology about China through which so many 
Americans first discovered the country after 1937, there was not 
much room for the notion that a great many Chinese might not be 
totally virtuous. Even the Communists and their sympathizers, vigi- 
lant always to exalt their Communist heroes and deprecate their 
Kuomintang foes, joined in the common litany and were silent in 
this time on those subjects whose airing might have shaken the har- 
mony of the "united front." The typically liberal and well-disposed 
individual whose whole image of China and the Chinese was shaped 
by the fuzzy and romantically colored information and emotions 
of this period was, much like Candide, in for a rude shock when con- 
fronted with more naked truths. 

For a detailed description of precisely this experience of shocked 
discovery we are indebted to Leland Stowe, a correspondent of lib- 
eral and crusading impulses, who went into China via the Burma 


Road late in 1941, just before Pearl Harbor. Stowe's experience was 
fairly typical of many who came after him with approximately the 
same mental and intellectual equipment. In an account published 
while the war was still on, 104 Stowe said that he "came to China 
with a typically American romantic attitude, without any faint con- 
ception of the oppressive poverty 7 and squalor . . . and with only a 
vague idea of the complexity of the Orient's problems." He begins 
by complaining, only half-humorously, that nobody had ever told 
him about the smells. Indicating that he had the same romantic 
notions about thirteenth century Europe as he did about twentieth 
century China, Stowe archly chided that famous ancestor of all ro- 
mantic Sinophilism: 

Old Marco Polo was a remarkably talented reporter but he ... ap- 
parently had no sense of smell whatever. In all his famous pages ... he 
fails to make the slightest mention of the unbelievable and fantastic 
olfactory diversity. . . . 

But the smells Stowe encountered assailed more than his nose. He 
also made the "jarring and unpleasant" and deeply depressing dis- 
covery that "the splendid picture of China's great war for inde- 
pendence has its black blotches and its darker side": 

I discovered also that my vision, like that of almost all Americans, had 
been seriously blurred by my enthusiasm for the Chinese people's magnifi- 
cent and incredible resistance to Japan. Somehow you did not pause to 
reflect that people who fought on and on so marvelously could still be 
handicapped or betrayed by corruption, selfishness, or indifference among 
a considerable portion of their governing class. . . . 

Stowe's i94i-vintage liberal romanticism remained thoroughly 
proof against the discovery of any blotches either among the heroic 
and deserving masses at the base of China, or its heroic and deserv- 
ing leaders at the summit, Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai- 
shek, whom he portrayed for his readers in almost totally 
undisenchanted hyperbole. He did find that "Free China" was some- 
thing less than free in such matters as the press and political op- 
position, but this could be rationalized without too much wrenching. 
Many liberals of that day were rationalizing much greater discrep- 
ancies in the case of the Soviet Union. What Stowe could not blink 
away, however, was the "orgy of racketeering" which he was immeas- 

10* Leland Stowe, They Shall Not Sleep, New York, 1944, pp. 4-85. 


urably shocked to find rife along the Burma Road, China's vital life- 
line, its jugular vein, its only link with the world, its only source 
for the intake of the goods of survival. "Few disillusionments of mine 
had ever been greater or more acid than this which I had suffered 
behind China's front/ 7 Stowe wrote. He finally decided with a cer- 
tain anguish of spirit and a characteristically exaggerated notion of 
the effect of a single news story to try to report what he had found 
although he "knew it would come as a tremendous shock to an 
American public which had come to look upon all Chinese as Sir 
Galahads and patriots." 

It is extraordinary testimony to the power of the China mythology 
of these years that a presumably sophisticated foreign correspondent 
a member of a craft in which a certain minimum skepticism is a 
professional requirement could be this "shocked" and expect his 
public to be bowled over by the news that there were crooked things 
going on in China. The extreme gullibility that made such decep- 
tion possible was common to a large American public at that time 
with respect to China, and especially to a large segment of what was 
called 'liberal opinion/' These were mostly people of great good- 
will who were being wakened by rude events to the fearful dangers 
abroad in the world. They readily even anxiously grasped as their 
own the shining images of distant decency and bravery offered to 
them by highly interested parties as a substitute for the harsher facts 
with which decency and bravery were so inextricably mixed. In the 
name of a formless and largely mindless "anti-Fascism" many of 
them accepted in the 1930*5 a whole body of factitious images re- 
lating to Spain, Russia, and China. These have been at least in part 
responsible for the great disarray and the almost chronic sense of 
shock, betrayal, and disenchantment with which many of these in- 
dividuals reacted to events thereafter. 

But not everyone was so remote from the actualities nor so na'ive 
about them. There was from the very beginning of this particular 
situation in China a wide gap between the popular picture of the 
Chinese at war and the private and more somber appreciations of 
some of the people in positions of actual responsibility. This differ- 
ence existed, at least in some measure, at the policy-making summit. 
Writing for publication during the war, Surnner Welles, then Un- 
dersecretary of State, referred to the Chinese government and its 
major leaders with all the fervid admiration so current at the time, 


e.g., Madame Chiang Kai-sheFs "amazing knowledge . . . quiet dig- 
nity . . . clarity of perception/' and T. V. Soong, "a constructive 
influence, brilliant, tough, resilient." 103 It was not until after the 
war that Welles, speaking of the same period of time September, 
1943 quoted President Roosevelt as telling him of "the innumera- 
ble difficulties . . . with Chiang Kai-shek . . . [speaking] in no meas- 
ured terms of the corruption and inefficiency which characterized 
his administration, he [FDR] had no patience with the regime's 
apparent lack of sympathy for the abject misery of the masses of 
the Chinese people." 106 

This difference between public and private views was especially 
marked in statements about what was being reported of the war in 
China, especially at the time of Pearl Harbor and thereafter. Some 
unusually striking examples of this appear in the diplomatic papers 
of 1942, published late in 1956. 107 The head of the first American 
military mission in Chungking was Brigadier General John A, Ma- 
gruder, who had served in China as an assistant military attache 
and was thus able to preface one of his early post-Pearl Harbor re- 
ports (February, 1942) with an elaborate statement of his own 
images of the Chinese: 

It is a known fact that the Chinese are great believers in the world of 
make-believe, and that they frequently shut their eyes to hard and un- 
pleasant actualities, preferring rather to indulge their fancy in flattering 
but fictitious symbols, which they regard as more real than cold facts. 
Manifestations of this national escape-psychology have been clearly dis- 
cernible in China's international relations. She has consciously given free 
rein to her native penchant for alluring fiction in Chinese propaganda 
abroad. People in other countries swallow such glib untruths whole with- 
out realizing that they are being deceived. As instances of this deceptive 
symbolism, I may adduce many reports emanating from Chinese diplo- 
matic sources abroad, referring to the marvelous achievements and abili- 
ties of the Chinese Army. Such reports are absolutely without foundation. 
They are largely due to the above-mentioned Chinese love of symbolism, 
or else can be attributed to nothing other than a downright desire to 
achieve certain specific objectives by clever deception. 

105 The Time For Decision, New York, 1944, pp. 282-285. 

K>6 Seven Decisions that Shaped History, New York, 1951, p. 151. 

107 All quotations on following pages are from Foreign Relations of the 
United States, Diplomatic Papers, China, 1942, pp. 13-16, 19, 24-25, 31, 112, 
208, 246, etc. 


Magruder went on to say that "because of the sponsorship accorded 
such propaganda on the part of many outstanding individuals, in- 
cluding missionaries as well as adherents to radical and liberal view- 
points, this propaganda has influenced public opinion in the United 
States, usually so sane and well-informed, to a surprising extent." 

Some radio broadcasts heard from San Francisco's KGEI give me great 
cause for alarm. If they are at all typical, the true state of affairs in China 
is being seriously distorted, and China's military successes are being 
highly exaggerated, by what is being given out in American news- 
papers. . . . There is grave danger that such continued distortions of fact 
as to the prowess of China's military forces are spreading about a false 
sense of security ... in the United States, and even [among] Chinese 
officials themselves. . . . Such propaganda could lead to grave defects in 
American war plans, if our own officials should be influenced by it even 
to the slightest extent. Perhaps all this is designed to raise popular morale 
in the United States and to flatter the Chinese, if so, it is going a bit too 

At the State Department in Washington, Magruder's sour report 
was received with a certain irritation. A commenting memorandum 
said that while "some" of his facts were "accurate," his statements 
reflected "an attitude of a person who is too close to unpleasant de- 
tail and who has forgotten or overlooked broader aspects." This con- 
flict between "unpleasant detail" from the scene itself and the 
emphasis on "broader aspects" in Washington characterizes a great 
deal of the tangled difficulties into which the Chinese-American re- 
lationship now moved. It is striking to note, reading these docu- 
ments fifteen years after the event, how "right" both treatments of 
the situation could often be. Thus Magruder and others after him 
were only telling the simple truth when they declared that Chinese 
military communiques were almost pure fantasy. On the other hand, 
Stanley Hornbeck, a generally hardheaded State Department adviser 
on China (who, however, had not actually been to China for many 
years) was also "right," at least in essence, when he retorted: "The 
Chinese at least have a record of having "taken it 7 for four and one- 
half years. . . ." Or: "Chiang Kai-shek has for four and one-half 
years successfully carried on defensive operations which most of the 
military experts of practically all of the other powers (including 
Japan) thought and said at the outset . . . could not be continued 
beyond a few weeks or at the utmost a few months." Or, finally: 
"Chiang is just as much entitled and just as well qualified to play 


national interest politics in connection with allied strategy as are 
responsible leaders of any other of the allied nations." 

But it was easier to deprecate or ignore the "unpleasant detail" 
from 10,000 miles away than it was on the ground. Asked to com- 
ment on the Magruder telegram, the American ambassador in 
Chungking, Clarence Gauss, replied: 

I have repeatedly pointed out that China is not prepared physically or 
psychologically to participate on a major scale in this war, that the Chi- 
nese armies do not possess the supplies, equipment, or aggressive spirit 
for any major military offensives or expeditions, and that we should not 
expect from them more. . . . whatever assurances or offers of greater co- 
operation may be forthcoming. ... It is also true that China is not now 
making any all-out war effort on the military front. ... I agree that the 
American press has unwisely accepted and exaggerated Chinese propa- 
ganda reports of alleged military successes which . . . have little founda- 
tion in fact. ... I agree that all this fulsome praise of China's war effort 
may have the effect not only of intoxicating the Chinese with ideas of 
their own prowess . . . but also of inducing a greater complacency. . . . 

In July, 1942, on the fifth anniversary of the all-out Japanese in- 
vasion of China, Secretary of State Cordell Hull issued a public 
message to Chiang Kai-shek in which he said: "The American 
people have watched with deep sympathy and admiration the heroic 
fortitude and tenacity with which for five long and bitter years the 
Chinese people have fought on against heavy odds." And President 
Roosevelt said: "All the world knows how well you have carried on 
that fight which is the fight of all mankind." In a memorandum 
written at Chungking a few days later Ambassador Gauss said: 

It is unfortunate that Chiang and the Chinese have been <r built up" 
in the United States to a point where Americans have been made to 
believe that China has been "fighting" the Japanese for five years, and 
that the Generalissimo, a great leader, has been directing the energetic 
resistance of China to Japan and is a world hero. Looking the cold facts 
in the face, one could only dismiss this as "rot." 

There is too heavy a burden of historic consequence in this matter 
to dismiss this "rot" as merely another sample of the routine hy- 
pocrisy common in the public and private lives of nations, especially 
in wartime. The fact is that the "rot" in China was eating away a 
regime and a social order. 

Chinese-American wartime relations finally exploded in public 


with the recall of General Stilwell, in October, 1944. The rash of 
"revelations" of conditions in China which filled the press on this 
occasion began the process by which the Chiang Kai-shek regime in 
China became powerfully identified with the single theme and single 
idea of corruption. This was used both in the more limited sense of 
plain thievery and in the profounder sense of the inner decay of a 
regime that seemed incapable of overcoming its own inherent weak- 
nesses, much less coping with the staggering problems of the people 
over whom it ruled. This became the dominant impression created 
by almost all the news reported from China in the war's aftermath. 

The Nationalist regime was brought closer to view by its return 
to the seaboard provinces and cities. To the shocked dismay of both 
the people and foreign well-wishers, the return of Kuomintang of- 
ficials appeared more like a descent of locusts than a liberation. 
Conditions in Shanghai were such that even the foreign businessmen 
who had returned generally felt as was commonly reported at the 
time and described again by one of our panelists who shared in this 
experience that Communist conquest was preferable to Kuomin- 
tang anarchy. The attempt to organize relief in postwar China 
brought in a whole new contingent of international public servants 
working for UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation 
Administration). The wholesale abuses in the handling of relief sup- 
plies by the cooperating Chinese agencies during the next two years 
brought on a series of public denunciations and resignations among 
UNRRA officials, causing small explosions in the news which were 
nevertheless heard quite loudly around the world and added to the 
general impression of Kuomintang decay. 

In almost every account, in newspaper, magazine, or book, that 
appeared about China between 1946 and 1949, the ineptitude, paraly- 
sis, and outright corruption of the officialdom remained the dom- 
inant themes and created the main lines of foreign and particularly 
American impressions as the Kuomintang-Communist civil war ran 
its course and the American mission headed by General George C. 
Marshall failed hopelessly to stem the onrush of doom. The swift 
crumbling of the Nationalist armies before the advancing Com- 
munists in 1949 completed the picture of a Chinese leadership not 
heroic but hopeless, rendered impotent largely by its own internal 
weakness, and of a Chinese mass too crushed by events to want any- 
thing but the order the victors promised to bring. By the end of 
1949, barely four years after Japan's surrender, the Communists were 


masters of all of China. Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his 
government and army had taken refuge on the island of Formosa. 
Great and turbulent and conclusive events had brought about this 
massive change in China ? and a great and turbulent and inconclusive 
debate about them has been going on more or less continuously ever 
since in the United States. In this process, the plaster-saint Images 
of the Chinese, and much more, came tumbling down. 

The Great Oriental Disappearing Ati 



THESE EVENTS are of recent date, the issues raised by them are still 
very much alive. Yet they are also already disappearing from view, 
washing away under the high and strong and often even more turbu- 
lent tides that have since come in. All sorts of lumps and crevices 
have been filled or covered, the thinner tracings left so recently are 
already all gone. New issues and new dilemmas have pressed upon 
us while all the old ones were still unresolved. The debate produced 
no decision. As it receded, people were left clinging either to surviv- 
ing bits and pieces of what they had thought before, or clinging to 
nothing at all. Some of these would say frankly, as members of our 
panel did say, that they were not sure now what they thought about 
what had happened in China. 

At least one idea found firm lodging. Despite valiant rear-guard 
action by Chiang Kai-shek's partisans, the idea of corruption be- 
came almost automatically identified with the regime he had failed 
to maintain in China. Despite all the frenzied finger-pointing and 
scapegoat-hunting, the notion of fdlure-through-conuption was still 
the principal reason assigned by the largest single group in our panel 
for the collapse of the Nationalist regime and the victory of the 
Communists. The question was: "What do you think was the main 
reason for the Communist conquest of power in China?" and the 
answers grouped themselves as follows: 

Kuomintang corruption, failure to cope with the people's problems So 

Shrewd Communist tactics ............. 46 

American errors of policy or judgment ......... 32 

Russian help to the Communists ........... 10 

Treason in the U.S. government ........... 7 108 

108 A Gallup poll on August 13, 1954, showed a somewhat different set of 
emphases in the responses of a national cross-section sample to the question: 
"Judging from what you have heard and read, what would you say are the main 
reasons China went Communist? 77 The replies: 

Poverty, living conditions, ignorance of masses . . . . 33% 

Russian pressure, propaganda . . ...... 33 

U.S. policy, failure to support Chiang ....... 7 

Corruption of Nationalist regime ........ 7 

Fifth column, traitors ............ 3 

Miscellaneous ............. . 17 

Don't know ............... 23 

(The table adds to more than 100 per cent because some 
persons gave more than one reason) . 


The task of placing these events under reasonably dispassionate 
scrutiny has hardly been begun. There is no such thing as a non- 
controversial account of the collapse of Kuomintang China, or a co- 
herent account of the impact of this event in the United States. 
A chronicler of the decade 1945-55 has noted, wonderingly, that the 
Chinese Communist victory had violated some "law of history" 
which gave Americans "a special mission" in Asia, that Americans 
had found the China outcome "peculiarly intolerable." 109 But the 
detailed essences of the matter still lie, in all their contemporary 
freshness, in the great unsorted masses of all that was written on the 
subject, spoken, argued, charged, and countercharged in all the 
many overheated public forums of the land during the early i95o 7 s. 

The China theme was, to be sure, only one in a time of many 
complicated discords. The "loss" of China was part of a larger loss 
so many Americans suffered at this time, a loss of self-confidence, 
a loss of assurance about security and power, especially atom power, 
a loss of certainty about the shape of the world and America's place 
in it most of all, perhaps, the loss of the hope and expectation that 
they could return to their private American world, the best of all 
possible w r orlds, and be free without fear or concern to enjoy it. 
The China "loss" was all these losses. It was magnified and its im- 
pact multiplied many times by the outbreak of the Korean War, 
which late in 1950 produced the staggeringly new spectacle of Amer- 
icans suffering defeats at Chinese hands. This added new elements 
of anger and humiliation to the confused disarray and made it even 
easier for unscrupulous politicians to use the "loss" of China as the 
handiest and biggest available stick with which to beat political 
foes. There w 7 as much more than China in these affairs, yet China's 
peculiar prominence in the spasms of the time is striking and mean- 
ingful. The famous "pumpkin papers" of Chambers-Hiss had largely 
to do with China albeit of the late 1930*5 the Yalta "sellout" was, 
above all, a "sellout" of our Chinese ally. The most relentlessly pur- 
sued and highly publicized victims of the time were almost all China- 
identified officials of the State Department who were accused of 
having helped "sell China down the river to the Communists." The 
remorseless vendetta conducted against Secretary of State Dean 
Acheson was based primarily on his connection with American China 
policy. Because of his part in the affair, George C. Marshall, one of 

109 Eric Goldman, The Crucial Decade, New York, 1956, pp. 116-117. 


the more austere patriots of his generation, was publicly called 
"traitor." Even President Harry Truman was publicly accused, after 
he left office, of having knowingly protected a spy in a high admin- 
istration post who was charged with having done much to under- 
mine the American position in China. With the Korean truce and 
the tardy squelching of the McCarthyist hysteria midway through 
the first Eisenhower administration, these issues lost some of their 
heat but none of their underlying confusion. The argument was not 
ended; it simply came to an exhausted halt. 

On the China issue itself, the essential positions confronting each 
other can perhaps be represented by two reasonably picturesque and 
forthright passages, both by men who saw much of the China events 
at first hand, this one by Joseph Alsop: 

If you have kicked a drowning friend briskly in the face as he sank for 
the second and third times, you cannot later explain that he was doomed 
anyway because he was such a bad swimmer. The question that must be 
answered is not whether the Chinese did their best to save themselves, 
which they most certainly did not. The question is whether we did our 
best to save China. . . . Throughout the fateful years in China, the Amer- 
ican representatives there actively favored the Chinese communists. They 
also contributed to the weakness, both political and military, of the Na- 
tionalist Government. And in the end they came close to offering China 
up to the Communists, like a trussed bird on a platter. . . . 110 

And this one by Graham Peck: 

To blame the collapse of feudal China on any modern Americans is 
like claiming that a house which had been decaying for a century and 
had been fatally undermined by its own inhabitants was really blown 
down by the sneezing of neighbors. . . . We did not err by trying to 
stabilize Chiang Kai-shek's relations with the increasingly powerful Com- 
munists, or by giving him too little material aid. . . . We gave him too 
much, helping him ignore [the fact that] competition with the Com- 
munists offering the Chinese people better conditions of life than the 
Communists could was the one way a non-Communist China could 
survive. 111 

In contending recriminations like these (and there were many much 
less tempered), there might be no full answers to questions about 
what happened in China, but there was much to suggest in their 
common assumption of the special American responsibility some 

no "Why We Lost China," Saturday Evening Post, January 7, 1950. 
111 Two Kinds of Time, pp. 592, 700. 


reasons for the pain and passion aroused by these climactic events. 
In one way or another, it seems, the Chinese failed us, or we failed 

A key that unlock at least one of the inner sanctums of American 
feeling about China and the Chinese is the phrase occurring and 
recurring in our interviews: "a country we have always helped, a 
people to be helped." This came from the oldest of our panelists, 
who had spent most of his life '^helping" China, and from one of 
the youngest, who had never been there at all but who said: "I have 
always felt responsible to China somehow, to help her out." 

Over more than a century, an extraordinarily large number of 
Americans came to think of themselves as the benevolent guardians 
and benefactors of China and the Chinese, as saviors, teachers, heal- 
ers, protectors, as warm and faithful friends and admirers. Amer- 
icans assumed responsibility for the minds, bodies, and immortal 
souls of the Chinese, and the United States assumed responsibility 
for China's political independence and administrative integrity. This 
is how they saw what they did and this is how they described it in 
their churches, wrote about it in their history books, and told their 
children about it in all the classrooms. It was an experience shared by 
all the millions who put pennies, dimes, and quarters on collection 
plates for generations, who contributed to relief funds for the 
Chinese, and whose tax money made up the vast sums, ultimately 
billions of dollars, paid out to succor and support China and its 
people in peace and war. After all this, the Chinese massively and 
decisively rejected American help, hopes, wishes, and precepts. They 
took the path of hostility toward Americans and opposition to 
American interests. In effect, they ejected Americans from China 
through that very Door which Americans had striven so long and 
so valiantly to keep Open. In doing these things, the Chinese were 
plainly biting the hands that had fed them these many years. They 
were repaying good with evil. They were, in short, ungrateful 

A number of our panelists identified this feeling quite explicitly, 
usually when they were trying to describe what "other Americans" 
were thinking and feeling about the Chinese. Thus a career official 
at the State Department said: 

Because of what we did while others were treating them badly, we 
think the Chinese ought to be grateful to us. I run into this idea often, 


in our way of writing about China policy, our acts in China, back to 
Boxer days and John Hay. The Chinese should be grateful. That's why 
we're so riled up about Red China. That they should go and join up 
with the Russians makes us doubly mad. I hear this among my as- 
sociates, especially from public members at U.N. delegation meet- 
ings. . . . 

A missionary who spent a long career in China: 

I occasionally hear people say: "Look how they've turned against us 
after all we've done!" 

A public opinion analyst: 

I have never investigated this myself, but if I guessed I would say 
that Americans are greatly disappointed. Their earlier idea of the Chi- 
nese as friendly, honest people was wrong. The Chinese bit the hand 
that fed them. Now they have to see them as a menace to the United 

A government official who had spent two decades in China: 

Have a feeling Americans are hurt, surprised. We've always been 
friendly, done things for them. This verges on extreme bitterness be- 
cause of betrayal. Maybe this is just my own feeling, but I get it from 
missionaries and others who have lived there. Maybe it comes from 
embarrassment over being identified somehow with the Chinese. 

The feeling that the Chinese had somehow failed us arises not 
only in the reaction to the Communist victory but dominates the 
pervasive disillusionment of the closing years of the war and its after- 
math, when the extent of the erosion within Chiang Kai-shek's 
Kuomintang regime became visible. The illusions about the Com- 
munists (as "agrarian reformers" or as "democrats") were certainly 
the product of a familiar kind of political euphoria characteristic of 
certain currents of "liberal" public opinion at the time. Many of 
the China-identified individuals who seized so avidly upon these 
notions were really reaching for some way of keeping their expecta- 
tions about the Chinese alive, of justifying their own beliefs and 
their own behavior. But Kuomintang Chinese and Communist 
Chinese alike had nothing but painful shocks for hopeful Ameri- 
cans, who were left by it all with little more than a feeling of having 
been betrayed. In the end, all the proffered salvation was scorned, 
generations of devoted help nullified, all the schooling, healing, min- 
istering brought to nought, all the advice ignored, all the hundreds 
of millions of dollars frittered uselessly away, all the hopes of a 


China "strong and free and democratic" glimmering and gone, all 
the dreams of making the Chinese over in some kind of American 
image customer, Christian extinguished, seemingly forever. It was 
possible for the most dogged American believers in the dream to 
keep their faith with the "people/ 7 but the Chinese "people" in 
their mass, it had to be acknowledged, had scarcely ever been reached 
by any American benefactions. It was the leadership that had come 
within the American purview. It was this generation of leaders that 
Americans had touched with schools, gifts, loans, ideas, examples,, 
and these were precisely the ones who had failed so utterly to live 
up to expectations. Whether in Kuornintang exile or in Communist- 
ruled China, these were the most ungrateful of all the ungrateful 
wretches of today. 

But the idea that they failed us is unavoidably edged by its un- 
comfortable corollary, which is that we failed them. The guardian 
is responsible, the ward's failure can never be the ward's alone. The 
parent, as everyone knows, bears the guilt of his child's delinquency. 
This, as everyone also knows, is a burden not readily to be borne 
if it can convincingly be transferred to someone else. Hence the 
mad scramble for scapegoats who, treasonably or otherwise, 'lost 
China." It was striking evidence of the special place held by China 
in American thinking that there seemed to be so many people ready 
to believe or to find nothing absurd in the belief that we "had" 
China to "lose." No such notion, indeed, had ever arisen in Amer- 
ican public life about any other country, because toward no other 
country had Americans ever assumed the same parental responsi- 
bility. Only as a flouted parent could the American feel that the 
Chinese, in their waywardness and delinquency, had strayed or al- 
lowed themselves to be led astray, that they had failed to appreciate 
and be guided by paternal precept and example and had thus 
brought down upon themselves a wrathful fate. It was also only as 
a rejected parent that the American could be assailed by so great 
a sense of guilt, the feeling that he was somehow responsible for 
what had happened to the Chinese. Only because there were these 
emotions to exploit could political demagogues make so much of 
the China issue in American public life in the aftermath of the fall 
of China to the Communists. 

The decisive place of the emotions of parentalism in American- 
Chinese relations was perceived a long time ago, with unique, acute, 
and characteristic clarity by John Dewey. For Dewey China was but 


one among many interests. His writings on the subject are perhaps 
little noted among the great volume of other works upon which 
his fame rests as philosopher and educator. Yet it would be difficult 
to find in any American writing about China a passage more filled 
with meaningful insight than this one, penned by Dewey in a maga- 
zine article written in 1926. At a time when the first great surge 
of Chinese nationalism was signaling the coming revision of all 
Chinese-Western relations, here is what Dewey observed: 

We have presented a certain type of culture to China as a model to 
be imitated. As far as we have gone at all, we have gone in loco parentis, 
with advice, with instruction, with example and precept. Like a good 
parent we would have brought up China in the way in which she should 
go. There is a genial and generous aspect to all this. But nonetheless it 
has created a situation . . . fraught with danger 

We have not done as much positively as we pride ourselves upon; but 
from the negative side, by absence of aggression, by smoothing things 
down when we could without great trouble to ourselves, we have played 
a parental role. Such a part arouses expectations which are not always to 
be met. Expectations may be unreasonable and yet their not being met 
may arouse disappointment and resentment. There is something of this 
sort in the temper of China towards us today, a feeling that we have 
aroused false hopes only to neglect fulfillment of obligations involved in 
the arousal. On the other side, parents are rarely able to free themselves 
from the notion that gratitude is due them; failure to receive it passes 
readily into anger and dislike. Unless this country has more than the 
average amount of parental understanding, it may soon be charging China 
with ingratitude. . , . 

China is rapidly growing up. ... It will henceforth resent more and 
more any assumption of parental tutelage even of a professedly benevolent 
kind. Signs of the resentment are already apparent. Missions and even 
schools are no longer welcome if they assume an air of superiority either 
as to what they have to offer or in their administration. . . . Politically 
also the Chinese no longer wish for any foreign guardianship. . . . 

There is a crisis in most families when those who have been under 
care and protection grow to the point of asserting their independence. 
It is the same in the family of nations. ... In the next ten years we 
shall have ... to alter our traditional parental attitude, colored as it has 
been by a temper of patronage, conscious or unconscious, into one of 
respect and esteem for a cultural equal. If we cannot successfully make 
the change, the relationship of this country with the entire Far East will 
take a decided turn for the worse. 112 

112 The Survey, May i, 1926, p. 188. 


In his sensitive translation of both historical and current political 
conflict into the language of individual human relationships, Dewey 
anticipated by a good many years what is now a much more familiar 
approach to the study of human affairs. Although he spoke so plainly, 
he was quite beyond the hearing of his immediate audience. Neither 
the movers of the earth nor the heralds of heaven could dream of all 
that lay in his philosophy. They had to play out their roles to the 
end before confronting the consequences of their own behavior. 
Within but one decade after the decade of grace he had allowed, 
Dewey's foresight was confirmed in the event, and most crushingly 
in precisely the terms he had described. No father rejected by his 
son ever suffered more painfully than the United States suffered 
from the departure of China from its fold. 

It may be that only a novelist has sufficient freedom to deal with 
the possible role of guilt in the story of American relations with the 
Chinese. Guilt is perhaps the most subjective of emotions; societies,. 
Ike individuals, are ingenious at transforming it into something else. 
It does not often become explicit in the record. Yet even the most 
cursory look at the American-Chinese record suggests in many ways 
how heavy the burden on the American conscience might be. 

Consider, for one thing, the differences between American- 
Chinese relations in China and American-Chinese relations in 
the United States. Both are filled with violence and all sorts 
of other affronts to the dignity of Chinese. The peculiar 
vulnerability of the Chinese their membership in an "inferior" 
race and their citizenship in an impotent state encouraged 
American impulses to dominate as well as American impulses to pro- 
tect. But whereas in China the missionary influence and the special 
conditions of European competition combined to give at least a 
benevolent cast to American mastery, in America itself there were 
no such inhibiting influences. Brother's keepers had short shrift at 
the hands of the expanding master race in the years of the great 
opening of the American West. All who stood in the way or could 
not compete on equal terms first the American Indian and then 
the Chinese became prey to unhindered violence. Thus, in the face 
of all the deeply felt generalized professions about American na- 
tional life and culture and religion, a great many individual Amer- 
icans brutally maltreated the Chinese who came among them. The 
Chinese were lynched, mobbed, deprived of due process of law, and 


finally excluded from the country by the first legislation of its kind 
in history. It could be said that the worst persecutors and most brutal 
assailants of the Chinese were "Americans" of hardly more recent 
date than the Chinese themselves, immigrants brought from the 
other side of the world to meet the same needs for which Chinese 
"coolie labor" had been brought in and who found themselves in 
direct competition with the Chinese as laboring men. But the fact 
remains that this pattern of behavior enveloped all segments of the 
new American society. Most of those who did not join in the vio- 
lence condoned it, and both state and federal governments enshrined 
its essence in the law, largely because the society as a whole shared 
the belief in Chinese racial inferiority. Even after the worst mob 
violence against Chinese subsided, Americans did not accord Chinese 
in the United States their full legal equality with all others until it 
was impossible to avoid doing so and this did not take place until 
1946, when new laws for the first time gave the Chinese the right 
to become naturalized citizens and provided them with an immi- 
gration quota. To this day, moreover, legality aside, we still do not 
universally acknowledge the rights of Chinese in this country on a 
completely equal and automatic basis. For all the vast progress 
Americans have made in these matters, the individual Chinese still 
never knows that he can freely and always enjoy all the rights and 
privileges enjoyed by members of the dominant groups in the coun- 

There were, of course, always Americans who protested the injus- 
tice and cruelty practiced on Chinese in this country. But these 
never came to represent an effective majority capable, for example, 
of changing the exclusion laws. They remained, in fact, a small 
group of unheeded well-intentioned folk. Yet the same people, in 
great masses, who would not dream of becoming keepers of their 
Chinese brothers close to home were quite prepared to help keep, 
with their pennies and dimes, their Chinese brothers in China far 
away. I am not in a position even to guess how far this contradiction 
between American behavior toward Chinese in the United States 
and American professions and purposes in China ever became an 
article of guilt in any American minds. But anyone engaged in 
balancing up the historic record can hardly, looking back, avoid 
giving this anomaly its place in the scales. 

The gap between American profession and American practice in 
China is a much more complex affair. Americans who went to 


China were no doubt different in many ways from the Americans 
who lynched Chinese in Western cities in the 1870'$ and i88o 7 s, but 
not so different, perhaps, from the run of Americans who accepted 
the premises on which so much of this violence was based. Whether 
they went to China to make money or to save souls, a great many 
of these individuals no doubt carried with them the same assump- 
tions of racial superiority, the same attitudes which produced con- 
tempt and indifference and a readiness to use or to justify violence 
when it suited their own needs or interests. They felt all the power- 
ful and self-justifying convictions of the Western white man of the 
nineteenth century convictions of the superiority of their own race, 
civilization, religion- and felt reinforced on all counts when they 
compared themselves to the puny, starving, ignorant peoples who 
inhabited so much of the rest of the world, and the plainly sinful 
and heathenish religions they professed and the backward and bar- 
barous societies they could so ill defend. 

But there were at least two other pieces of mental baggage these 
Americans knowingly or unknowingly carried with them. One was 
the peculiarly pressing American need to rationalize any behavior 
inconsistent with the idea that all men were created free and equal. 
The other was a brothers-keeper impulse which has always been 
one of the most deeply imbedded characteristics of American Prot- 
estantism. Whether consciously or not, I suspect that the American 
had to relate himself somehow to these ideas and compulsions which 
formed the core of his secular and religious creed. He could either 
deny them and brush them asidein which case he either felt, or 
would eventually be felt by others to be guilty of a wrong; or he 
had to believe and insist that his behavior conformed to their re- 
quirementsin which case he skirted constantly the dangers of self- 
righteousness or hypocrisy. In their many possible combinations, 
these compulsions and their consequences have had a certain Amer- 
ican uniqueness, and the result of it lies heavily marked across 
all Chinese-American history. 

In China a wonderfully expedient convergence of motives, pres- 
sures, and circumstances seemed to conspire to give Americans the 
best of both possible worlds. Since the only way to keep China open 
to American commercial interests was to keep anyone else from 
closing it, it became basic American policy to try to keep China 
open to all. The missionary movement, drawn into China by its al- 


most unique accessibility to this kind of American enterprise, gave 
an almost natural air of sanctity to this role of benevolent guardian. 
In doing so it produced a certain number of Americans who were 
convinced that the most meaningful things in their lives were the 
sacrifices they were making for Chinese well-being. The expediency, 
hypocrisy, and downright ethnocentric foolishness in all of this 
especially as seen from the point of view of a Chinese nearly defy 
description. On the other hand, many of these individuals were 
moved or torn by strong compulsions. The fact is that American 
belief in freedom, equality, and those inalienable rights was a power- 
ful creed which in the end somehow shaped American political be- 
havior and by which, in the end, Americans expected to judge or be 
judged. And while history's verdict on the missionary movement 
may be a harsh one, it is not likely to erase altogether the profound 
brother-keeping impulse in American society which produced it and 
which, even now, in new forms and language, remains an essential 
part of the substance of American world policy. To be sure the 
American, like the European, had made it a habit to invoke a certain 
routine divine sanction, even for his most unsanctifiable acts. But 
only quite recently has the European felt required to invoke for non- 
European peoples the traditions of freedom which hitherto he had 
valued only for himself. The American, I think it can be said, has 
never been free of this necessity. In the end it has imposed itself 
upon all his acts, and this helps explain, I suspect, the American's 
numerous failures as a wielder of power in world politics. He has 
been too much a believer in his own myths. Hence a great many 
of the contradictions and conflicts and the acute discomfort and 
guilt feelings suffered by Americans in world affairs. For the Amer- 
ican, goaded by these rigorous demands of the spirit freedom, 
equality, Good Samaritanism has been all the more woefully weak 
in the flesh. 

Americans who turned up in China as traders usually had all the 
characteristic features of the nineteenth-century imperialist urge. 
Few then saw cause to apologize for money-making and power- 
seeking. Abroad, as well as at home, many felt the need to use force, 
often against weak obstacles that stood in the way* There was com- 
petition to be met, recalcitrance to be overcome, advantage to be 
sought and guarded. There were selfish interests to be served and 
they usually were. Hence a long series of expansionist acts by Amer- 
ican governments, from William Seward's day through Theodore 


Roosevelt's, a succession of compacts of dubious virtue, from the 
opium-legalizing treaties of Caleb Cushing's day to Franklin Roose- 
velt's horse trade with Stalin at Yalta. The plain truth is that while 
the United States wore with a flourish the mantle of China's guard- 
ian-protector, in fact it served China's national interests only when 
it seemed to serve American national interest to do so. Americans 
piously believed in their own good faith as brother's-keepers, but 
Americans rarely hesitated, when their interests required it, to in- 
flict painful injury on the brother they so fondly felt they were 
keeping. All of this had to be rationalized and explained. In the 
nature of things, this took considerable self-deception and no small 
meed of downright hypocrisy. This can be shown to be the charac- 
teristic pattern in much American behavior in China in the nine- 
teenth century. It became patent in Theodore Roosevelt's time, 
when America was trying to play the power game by Europe's rules. 
It took on perhaps its most ironic and poignant form in the Amer- 
ican capitulation to Japan at Versailles in 1919. In the interest of 
what he saw as some greater good, Wilson helped inflict a heavy 
new blow on China, and, quite unwittingly, he thereby ignited the 
first of the great nationalist explosions which have since transformed 
that country. The paradox which places a Wilson in this role vis- 
a-vis China is perhaps the aptest symbol we have for the inner sense 
of the prime contradictions in Chinese-American history which now 
rise to haunt us. It is not at all hard to summon up a few more 
of these ghosts out of the history since Wilson's time to suggest the 
kind of burdens about China that Americans of our own time know- 
ingly or unknowingly may carry on their consciences. 

In the events of the 1920'$ which provoked John Dewey's thought- 
ful warning about American paternalism in China, there were some 
Americans, especially among the missionaries, who felt an active 
sympathy for Chinese nationalism. Some American newspapers of 
the time assumed an air of avuncular and slightly amused tolerance: 
the principal Chinese target was Britain, and Americans in the 
United States who followed the events could feel a certain smug 
satisfaction in England's discomfiture. But the dominant and effec- 
tive American reaction was to reach for the rod. American troops and 
warships moved in, along with those of other nations, to reinforce 
the treaty ports. A great many refugee missionaries reverted auto- 
matically to the pre-Boxer attitudes of exasperation, joined the busi- 
nessmen and "old China hands" in demanding still larger forces and 


much stronger action. Soon, as Dewey had predicted, they were de- 
nouncing their Chinese wards and pupils for "their apparent lack of 
appreciation for what is being done for them," in the words of a 
contemporary report on mission schools, or ? again, in the words of 
another report of the time, by an "irate educationalist": 

I cannot slobber and sentimentalize over young China's aspirations 
they aren't aspirations; they are merely the expression of an inherent love 
of evading honest work, respect for authority of any sort, and a general 
penchant for kicking up a row. If young China could learn reverence and 
obedience, half China's troubles would be solved. 113 

Lewis Gannett, later the distinguished critic and essayist, but then 
in China as a roving reporter, watched the American marines polic- 
ing Shanghai's streets, and among the twenty foreign warships an- 
chored in the Whangpoo off the city's International Settlement he 
counted thirteen flying the American flag, and he observed: 

Americans are doing all sorts of nice things for China, but they are not 
doing the one thing the Chinese most want they are not abandoning 
the special privileges which make the foreigners a class apart in all the 
twenty-one provinces of the republic. 

He went one day in 1926 to the young "Red general" who as friend 
and ally of the Russians and the Communists had become com- 
mander-in-chief of the Chinese nationalist armies, and this general 
told him: 

"Thinking men HI China hate America more than they hate Japan. 
Japan talks to us in ultimatums; she says frankly that she wants special 
privileges. . . . We understand that and know how to meet it. The Amer- 
icans come to us with smiling faces and friendly talk, but in the end your 
government acts just like the Japanese. And we, disarmed by your fair 
words, do not know how to meet such insincerity. 

"That is what is behind the anti-Christian movement in China. Your 
missionaries write 'charity' over their doors, and I do not deny that many 
of them are good men who do good work. But in the end they make it 
easier for American policy to follow that of the other imperialist Powers. 
So because we have been deceived by your sympathetic talk, we end by 
hating you most. Why cannot America act independently? Why does 
she preach fine sermons, but in the end tag along with the others? Why 
can she not, like Russia, prove her friendliness by acts?" 114 

us China Year Book, 1928, p. 499. 
114 The Survey, May i, 1926, p. 181. 


This young general's name was Chiang Kai-shek. His attitude toward 
Russia changed not long thereafter, but it is doubtful whether he 
has ever had serious cause to change his view of the United States. 
As the head of a conservative Nationalist government at Nanking, 
Chiang Kai-shek all but threw himself on the mercies of the United 
States. He won over the dominant missionary constituency by be- 
coming a Christian, but the United States yielded nothing of sub- 
stance to him. It would not validate his claim to nationalist leadership 
by surrendering any of its special privileges. Moreover, in 1934, the 
American Congress passed a bill aimed at helping the crisis-hit silver 
producers of the United States. This Silver Purchase Act had the 
principal effect of dealing a mortal blow at the staggering Chinese 
economy by putting a price on silver which drew vital quantities of 
it out of China at a time when it could least afford any weakening of 
its currency. In 1937, when Chiang Kai-shek could no longer evade 
the issue of war with Japan, he looked for American help but re- 
ceived, as we have seen, only a mild measure of sympathy, which 
Madame Chiang Kai-shek herself has described acidly: 

The interest, although sympathetic, was as detached as that of specta- 
tors at a college football game, cheering from the safety of the stand 
while taking no personal risk in the game themselves. 115 

Then followed the issue of the uninterrupted sale of American oil 
and scrap to Japan. "The odds against which [the Chinese] are fight- 
ing," cried Henry L. Stimson, "are being made possible by us. . . ." 116 
When he wrote of the fervent admiration among Americans for 
China's stand against the Japanese, Leland Stowe acutely remarked: 
"Perhaps . . . our enthusiasm for all things Chinese is fanned higher 
by a secret guilt for having made their sufferings so much greater 
through our prolonged shipments of scrap iron, gasoline, and other 
materials to the Japanese." 117 In the closing stages of the American- 
Japanese negotiations just before Pearl Harbor, Americans intent 
upon buying even a little more time to improve American readiness 
for war considered offering Japan a modus vivendi at China's ex- 
pense. This was not actually done, but the fact that it was con- 
templated became known to the Chinese, and Sumner Welles has 
suggested that this "seriously impaired the confidence of Chiang 

i 15 Quoted by Dulles, China and America, p. 207. 

i ^hall We Keep on Helping Japan?," Reader's Digest, December, 1937. 

i 17 They Shall Not Sleep, p. 37. 


Kai-shek and his entourage in the United States . . . [and] was re- 
sponsible for much of the friction and suspicion that clouded rela- 
tions between Washington and the Nationalist Chinese government 
in subsequent years." 118 When the United States was, at last, allied 
with China in the war against Japan, we find among the mutual 
recriminations of the first months an angry telegram from Chiang 
Kai-shek to Washington in which it is easy to hear the echo of the 
statements he had made to Lewis Gannett in that time long ago 
when it all began: 

I have to fight continually against demoralizing doubts on the part of 
my officers, who conclude that American attitude toward China is in 
essence no different from that held by other nations, that both in the 
all-important matters of joint staff conferences and war supplies, China 
is treated not as an equal, like Britain and Russia, but as a ward. 119 

Nothing happened during the rest of the war to relieve Chiang of 
his sense of neglect, not even Franklin Roosevelt's attempt to meet 
the American sense of the needs of the situation by establishing a 
"Great Power" status for China in the councils of the nations. This 
perplexed Winston Churchill but gave no solace whatever to Chiang. 
In the years since, of course, as many a visitor to Formosa could 
testify, Chiang Kai-shek has seen himself in large measure as a victim 
of American baseness and betrayal. 120 

In the controversy over American China policy, there are those 
who argue that America betrayed the Chinese people by myopically 
supporting Chiang Kai-shek and his regime, while others argue that 
the chief victim of American betrayal was Chiang himself. The case 
can be argued either way, but both versions agree in offering the 
American not much more than a burden of failure and guilt. This 
can be made to apply equally to the whole course of American-Chi- 
nese affairs. Americans were going to save Chinese souls, but they 
never saved enough of them to leaven the heathen mass. They were 
going to educate the Chinese to become the leaders of a "free, strong, 
democratic China/' but leaders they educated proved incapable of 
making, much less keeping China free, strong, or democratic. They 

us Welles, Seven Decisions, pp. 67-68. 

119 Chiang to T. V. Soong 7 April 19, 1942, Documents, China, p. 33. 

120 He nearly floored a sympathetic American visitor, Thomas E. Dewey, in 
1951, "with a blast of searing emotional bitterness" in which he described his 
people as "victims of total abandonment by all those on whose side we fought so 
long." Dewey, Journey to the Far Pacific, New York, 1952, p. 132. 


were going to protect China from hostile encroachment and help it 
In its time of need, but this help was denied for too long, and in the 
end it was the American effort that the Chinese rejected as the least 
acceptable encroachment of all. 

In these matters of guilt and conscience as indeed in all matters 
relating to American-Chinese relations the missionary occupies a 
central place. It was he, after all, who gave these relations their heavy 
Samaritan cast. It was the missionary who was able, in China, to 
influence the shape and tenor of affairs far beyond his normal sphere, 
It was the missionary, finally, who via his vast constituencies in the 
churches of the country for so many generations, gave China its 
unique place in the American consciousness. In relation to no other 
country, in no other connection, has the missionary played even a re- 
motely comparable role in American affairs. 

Today he cuts a poignant or a pathetic figure, according to how 
you view him and his role in all this history, and where you locate 
the sinners and the sinned against and how you assign the items of 
the sowing and the reaping. The missionary had to see himself as the 
bearer of the superior religion, the higher morality, the greater wis- 
dom, the richer life here or hereafter. He devoted himself to the task 
of bringing these gifts to the wayward, the straying, and the unknow- 
ing of God's children. He came quite unbidden to the Chinese in 
loco parentiSj and in his case the parent was God. This was, by all 
odds, a sizable assumption for any man to make and to expect the 
Chinese to accept, even if we try to speak here only of the best and 
leave aside those for whom the mission was more a job than a voca- 
tion, more an answer to their own personal problems than to the 
problems of the Chinese, a niche among the money-changers rather 
than a place in any temple of the spirit. 

The essentially parental role of the missionary was the same, 
whether in the nineteenth century when he found God's Chinese 
children so exasperating, or during the twentieth when, for a time, he 
found some of them so much more compliant and more attractive. 
The difference between these generations may, indeed, be something 
like the difference between the permissive parent of our own times 
and the authoritarian model of a few generations ago. In either 
guise, the missionary-parent grievously failed. The stem authoritarians 
who first came to take the Chinese by the hand and lead them to the 
light succeeded mainly in arousing acute hostility and provoking 


decisive rejection. The Chinese had authorities of their own which 
they largely preferred. The nineteenth-century missionary believed 
in chastisement, and he did not hesitate to use the secular arm avail- 
able to him for this purpose. This mixed him up with gunboats, 
treaties, trade, governments, and power, and if anyone is interested 
in tracing the sins of missionaries in China, this is one good place to 
start looking. These procedures did finally bring the Chinese around 
to a certain posture of docility and, on the part of some of them, 
to a calculated interest in Western learning and Western ways. 
Perhaps the missionary movement can be credited, along with the 
deeper-going elements of political and economic change, with a role 
in hastening the breakup of Chinese traditional society. But it never 
brought any really substantial number of Chinese around to a full 
acceptance of the particular salvation these Westerners brought. To 
these missionary fathers, the Chinese in their great mass seemed, 
and indeed were, obstinately committed to their own evil ways. Their 
more permissive successors in more recent times tried to love the 
Chinese better. But whereas frustration had led their predecessors 
to feelings of exasperation, their own more loving and kindlier ways 
led them inescapably to attitudes that were essentially patronizing. 
Some missionaries were coming around to thinking that the Chinese 
could walk toward the light alone, perhaps even in their own way. 
But even these earnest well-wishers were overtaken by harsh events 
before they could fully let go. Now, from exile, they have to decide 
what to think about the outcome of their century-old enterprise. 
At the end of 119 years of Protestant missionary work in China, 
there were said to be somewhere between half a million and a million 
Chinese Protestants. The much older Catholic missions were said to 
minister to about two million Catholics. All told, these estimates 
added up to about one-half of i per cent of the population. One 
recent summary guessed that there were "over 250,000 alumni of 
Christian colleges and middle schools" in China in 1945, 121 and there 
must have been at that time certainly more than 5,000 graduates of 
American universities. Products of Western education formed a major 
segment of the leadership which had had its chance in China for 
nearly a generation. At its summit was Chiang Kai-shek, a Christian, 
though not Western-educated, and a small group of families whose 
leading men and women all held American college degrees. This 

131 China Handbook, 1937-1945, Chinese Ministry of Information, New 
York, 1947, p. 560. 


leadership was toppled and ejected from the country. 122 It had failed 
to leaven the heathen and uneducated mass sufficiently to put China 
on the path to a future that looked bright and attractive from any 
American point of view. One can reasonably guess that the great 
majority of the living graduates and products of Christian schools 
of the past thirty to forty years and perhaps even a majority of the 
graduates of schools in the United States are now working in or 
for the Communist party or the Communist government, that the 
people generally, in their much celebrated practical down-to-earth- 
ness, are submitting to the new regime. By every hope and expecta- 
tion the missionary movement had ever represented, they are all now, 
leaders and led, educated and uneducated, walking not toward the 
light but into the darkness. 'The children are the ones that scare 
you/ 7 said a Catholic priest who emerged at Hong Kong after a term 
in a Communist prison. "It breaks your heart to have a child you 
have known from birth stand at your gate and call you an Imperial- 
ist dog/ What will they be like ten years from now?" 123 

But I fear there is more in this than the earnest missionary or 
many another ardent Sinophile can quite embrace in his philosophy, 
more than sorrow, more than error. For what strikes me powerfully 
about these high American emotions regarding the Chinese is their 
one-sidedness. I certainly cannot document this, but I emerge from 
this long review of American-Chinese relations with a vivid picture 
in my own mind of Americans going through all kinds of gyrations 
of feeling, assuming all the time in the Chinese reciprocal emotions 
which were simply not there. At most points, I suspect that the 
Chinese simply did not care at all, that to contempt he returned 
indifference, to admiration, disdain. The American suffering a sense 
of rejection is a doubly pathetic figure, because he was never really 
accepted, merely borne. There was certainly the experience of high 
good faith, fidelity, and mutual esteem between individuals; a few 
such are always the saving grace of every human story. But in the 
characteristic American-Chinese context, one wonders how many 
individual relationships were not in some way centrally rooted in the 
American seen as benefactor and the Chinese as beneficiary, and 

122 Thomas E. Dewey learned that he had on Formosa sixty fellow-alumni 
from Columbia and eighty from Michigan, all members of Chiang Kai-shek T s 
government-in-exile. Journey to the FctT Pacific, p. 111. 

123 Henry R. Lieberman, "Inside Mao's China; Clues to a Mystery, New 
York Times Magazine, April 5, 1953. 


therefore productive not of regard but of hostility. In one of our 
interviews a former India missionary, recalling that old China mis- 
sionaries had always talked so glowingly about China and the Chi- 
nese, reported with a certain relish a conversation with some younger 
people who had gone out to China after 1945 and remained until 
shortly after the Communists took power. "They told me/ 7 he said, 
"that they had never realized how much hostility the Chinese must 
have really felt towards us until the Communists came along. They 
were sure that such hostility must have been there all along," 

A cruelly pathetic epilogue to this insight has been written since 
then on the island of Formosa, where all actively surviving American- 
Chinese relations have been concentrated since 1950. These consist 
of relations between nearly 10,000 American soldiers and civilians, 
and the exiled Kuornintang government and army and some 2,000,- 
ooo Chinese refugees. Kere the classic guardian-ward relationship 
of the past has been stripped to naked Chinese dependency on 
Americans for their survival as a political force, for their economic 
maintenance, their military protection, and their hope of returning 
to the mainland. These would create sufficient strains even under 
more favorable conditions, but as it is they are all drawn tightly 
together in a narrow physical space, and relations between people 
are subject to all the abnormalities of what amounts to a military 
occupation and regime, in reality a twin occupation by both Chinese 
and Americans of a land alien to both. In this setting we would 
expect to find reproduced most of the conditions created by Amer- 
ican-Chinese relations in West China during the war with Japan, 
only in smaller compass, shorter, tighter, harsher, and without even 
the catharsis of actual war. Here at the summits of the Chinese 
Taipeh regime, we have had a gnawing mistrust of the durability of 
American protection, and the gathering realization that not all the 
American ships, planes, or men would ever actually help put the 
Kuomintang back in China again. Here too in the populace at large 
accumulated all the resentments over the "brash" and "loutish" con- 
duct of American soldiers and civilians ^ in ordinary everyday con- 
tacts. In May, 1957, an American soldier who had murdered a 
Chinese was acquitted, before an applauding American crowd, by an 
army court-martial. On May 24, in what was described as a sponta- 
neous eruption of mob violence, a crowd of thousands of Chinese 

124 New Yorfc Times, June z 7 1957. 


sacked the American embassy and information agency building, tore 
down the American flag and ripped it to shreds. Several Americans 
were injured. An army of 30,000 Chinese soldiers was moved into 
Taipeh to restore order. More than embassy cars and desks were 
toppled that day in Taipeh. In the breasts of the staunchest keepers 
of the dream, citadels were shaken. The Taipeh violence, said Sena- 
tor William Knowland of California, was "shocking to me and to 
friends of Free China." The ungrateful wretches on Formosa were 
the most unbearably ungrateful and the most unbearably wretched 
of all 


EVERY TIME DURING the last half-century or more that the sleeping 
Chinese dragon flicked his tail, there were American watchers anx- 
iously sure that it was at last coming awake. A quick scanning of a 
variety of periodical and book indexes turns up the titles of some 
sixty magazine articles and thirty-odd books, published at various 
times between 1890 and 1940, in which China, or the giant, or the 
dragon, has awakened, is waking, or is stirring, rising, changing, or 
being reborn. Each time, however, the great recumbent figure re- 
lapsed into its semicomatose state. But the prophets erred only in 
time, not in their expectations. When the Communists took power 
in China in 1949, the event so often foretold finally came to pass, 
and despite all the foretelling, it came as a rude shock. The monster 
awakened bore only the most coincidental resemblance to the mon- 
ster asleep. Opening his red eyes, rising into motion, breathing fire, 
he has completely altered the arrangement of lights and shadows 
in which he was previously seen. There is nothing delicate or subtle 
about him now, he is tough and crude. He is not torpid, but driving, 
not passive or yielding, but aggressive and unmanageable. 

Indeed, we may in a way have come around the fullness of the 
circle. The Middle Kingdom of Mao Tse-tung is by no means 
celestial, but it is again sealed off, at least from Americans. Its rulers 
once more require the kowtow or its equivalent; only the obeisant 
bringing tribute are welcomed to the Forbidden City. It is again a 
power that arouses hostility. But it also now, after these many genera- 

FACK TO PACK- From the irorld (New York). 





' fe 


Yoes, Sczn Diego Um'on 



tions, again commands respect. None of the more habitual American 
postures of past decades lordly contempt, patronizing affection, 
sentimental admiration, avuncular kindness, or parental solicitude- 
could quite meet the new situation. New postures had to be assumed, 
and the change, after so long a time, was bound to cause much pain- 
ful dislocation. 

The Nearly Total Severance 

This dislocation was first of all purely physical. There was no 
place in the Communists' China for the American as purveyor of 
the goods of a superior civilization, as soul-saver, teacher, mentor, 
guardian, protector, nor even as scholar, journalist, or merely curious 
onlooker. The initial pell-mell exodus, the imprisonment of stragglers, 
the swift liquidation of American enterprises, the military collision 
in Korea, and the subsequent stalemated hostility, all made the 
mutual sealing-off process nearly complete. In mid-i95y there were, 
as far as was definitely known, 2; Americans all told in all of China, 
compared to 13,300 American residents in 1937, the last "peacetime" 
year. 125 Thus, within only a few years after Congress had finally 
repealed the sixty-year-old laws excluding Chinese as immigrants from 
the United States, the turn of events created a situation which 
sweepingly excluded Americans of every description from China. 

This exclusion, to compound the irony, was discriminatory: it 
applied to Americans only. Communist China became, after its first 
few years, a veritable mecca for visiting delegations and individuals 
from many other countries. Many who came though not all- 
tended to be sympathetic votaries of the regime, come to marvel or 
to gain by the contact, or invited guests on whom the Communists 
hoped to make a decisive impression. From among these travelers, 
writers of several nationalities soon produced a small mountain of 
literature on their observations in China. Most of it was highly 
partisan and very little of it reached American readers. Among books 
reflecting firsthand experience by non-Americans, we had two ac- 
counts by disillusioned young Chinese (Liu Shao-tang, Out of Red 

125 The 23 included four missionaries still restrictedly at large; 6 still captive 
in Communist prisons; and 13 surviving members of the group of 21 American 
POW's who elected to remain with their Communist captors after the end of 
the Korean war in 1953. The Department of State has suggested that with others 
whose presence in China is not so definitely known including some Americans, 
of Chinese origin who are thought to be concealing their citizenship for personal 
security reasons the figure of 23 might be raised to a guessed total of about 100. 


China? 1953, and Maria Yen, The Umbrella Garden, 1954); two by 
Indian visitors (Frank Moraes' Report on Mao's China and G. P. 
Hutheesing's The Great Peace, both in 1953) who were a good deal 
less uncritically admiring of the Chinese Communists than most of 
their touring countrymen; and several accounts by Englishmen (e.g., 
the reportorial No Flies in China by George S. Gale and James 
Cameron's Mandarin Red, both in 1955, and the more partisanly 
sympathetic Daybreak in China by Basil Davidson in 1953); an( ^ 
in 1957, Robert Guillain's deeply worried 600 Million Chinese. These 
all appeared in American editions, but none had any wide sale. The 
New York Times occasionally printed Peking dispatches from 
Renter's, the British news agency. Even more occasionally, a series 
of articles by some English or Australian correspondent or noted 
traveler (like Clement Attlee) was syndicated to American news- 
papers. Such, almost in sum, was the writing at firsthand about 
China by non-Americans which reached any American readers. 

Writing by Americans about China, such a massive flow only a 
few years before, had meanwhile dried to the merest trickle. After 
the initial accounts of the Communist takeover, written by Ameri- 
cans still there at the time, there were a few later books by mis- 
sionaries and others who brought up the rear of the general exodus, 126 
one plainly pro-Communist account, 127 and occasional articles based 
on the experience of soldiers and prisoners in Korea or of repatriates 
who came blinking across the Hong Kong barrier at wide intervals. 
Scholars or others with specialized interests in China had to depend 
on the careful culling of Chinese Communist publications and to 
venture description, analysis, and interpretation without chance or 
hope of verifying their insights by inquiry on the ground. 128 The only 
more or less regular reports appearing in the American press or heard 
on the American radio were based almost entirely on cullings from 
the Chinese press and radio and other indirect accounts secured by 
observers and correspondents in Hong Kong or in Formosa. 129 

126 E.g., A. M. Dunlap, Behind the Bamboo Curtain, 1956; Sister Maiy Vic- 
toria, Nun in Red China, 1953; Robert W. Greene, Calvary in China, 1953, etc. 

127 Julian Schuman, Assignment China, New York, 1956. 

128 Some examples: W. W. Rostow and others, Prospects for Communist 
China, New York, 1954; Y. L. Wu, An Economic Survey of Communist China, 
New York, 1956; Richard L. Walker, China Under Communism: The First Five 
Years, New York, 1955; Boorman, Eckstein, Mosely, and Schwartz, Moscow- 
Peking Axis, New York, 1957. 

129 For an example of competent marshaling of available material at second- 
hand, see New Republic, Special Report on Communist China," May 13, 1957. 


American contact with mainland China and with any of its people 
had thus, by the end of 1956, been reduced virtually to zero. Out- 
side of China only the most vagrant encounters were to be had: meet- 
ings with refugees or other travelers in Hong Kong, glimpses of 
Chinese touring abroad on various missions 7 of Chinese delegations 
at international conferences Panmunjom, Geneva, Bandungor of 
the peripatetic Chou En-lai during his generally triumphant foreign 
tours. This was just about all. Printed matter and no doubt an 
occasional letter still passed in the mails, but that was the whole of 
it: in trade, travel, news reporting, personal contact, the severance 
was nearly total, more complete than at any time since the first 
American traders and missionaries landed at Canton and, in modern 
comparable circumstances, more complete by far than the degree 
of separation that existed between Russia and the United States at 
any time, including the sixteen-year span between the Bolshevik 
revolution and the resumption of Russian-American diplomatic 

During the course of 1957, however, it became obvious that, bar- 
ring any new outbreak of actual hostilities, this condition of affairs 
would not be much longer maintained. An accumulation of political, 
economic, and strategic pressures was forcing changes on both sides. 
Slow and stiff but direct diplomatic contact had begun in a marathon 
series of Chinese-American talks at Geneva. The rigid trade embargo 
imposed on China during the Korean War had begun to break down. 
Some resumption of travel and press contact appeared to be coming 
into view. 130 But however and whenever this occurred, it was plain 

!30 American newsmen were barred from China by the Communists until 
midsummer, 1956, when Peking suddenly offered 6o-day visas to 18 of them. 
The U.S. government refused to sanction the arrangement, thereby taking over 
from the Communists the responsibility for the news blockade. Three men defied 
the ban, William Worthy of the Baltimore Afro- American, and Edmund Stevens 
and Philip Harrington of Look, who entered China in December, 1956, for brief 
visits. Worthy's impressions appeared in the New York Post and other papers in 
January-February, 1957. He found the Chinese Communists "more flexible, more 
intelligent and . . . [therefore] more dangerous than the stiff Soviet bureaucracy."" 
Stevens, in Look, April 16, 1957, said he found "the people more friendly than 
we expected and the officials we dealt with far more relaxed and agreeable than 
the Russians." Of the trio only Worthy was penalized by being refused renewal 
of his passport, an issue that started up through the courts as a test of Secretary 
of State John Foster Dulles 7 assumption of power to abrogate rights of the press 
and the freedom of travel and inquiry. In August, 1957, Mr. Dulles agreed to 
sanction 7-month visas for China for 24 correspondents, but refused in advance 


that renewal of contact would not merely revive or resurrect the 
patterns of the past but would mark the opening of a new phase 
producing new relationships and new arrangements of all the old 
images and attitudes. 

But meanwhile this total separation in the conditions of these 
years had added its own peculiar degree of distortion to the changing 
American images of China and the Chinese. It is true that every 
wing in our long gallery of images of the Chinese has been in its way 
a hall of mirrors in which reflections have often seemed more real 
than the reality. But in each one of them, at least, many Americans 
passed in their time, and some lingered long. All the many images 
that appeared in these mirrors were in some way validated by some 
intimate knowledge and some living experience. But through this 
newest wing, no Americans now pass. It is not only unfinished and 
still largely unhoused; it remains quite inaccessible. We see it only 
from afar, the atmosphere is murky, the light is bad, and the visibility 
often nil. Our imaginations are left to supply the details of outlines 
we can barely see: the mirrors here are more like those one used to 
see at amusement parks, throwing back all kinds of grotesquely 
elongated or flattened or wriggly pictures. We view them from our 
distance unbelievingly or with dismay. 

The "New" Images Are Large Images 

One effect is that only the larger images of "China" or "Red 
China" are visible at all, and these are almost all images of anath- 
ema. They are etched not only in pain but in fear. The peculiar 
anguish caused to so many Americans by the "loss" of China was 
not the product only of rejected parentalism. There was more to the 
matter than damaged egos. China had not merely strayed away. It 
had become part of the new Soviet power system. In the same season 
of 1949 that China fell to the Communists, Russia exploded its first 
atom bomb and had become something new in the American cosmos: 
a foe to be feared. Less than a year later Americans were fighting 
in Korea and an American offensive was stunningly and unexpectedly 
smashed by a Chinese army that had crossed the Yalu River and 

to grant reciprocal rights to any Chinese Communist correspondents. On this 
issue the matter remained stalled at the end of 1957. Meanwhile the Dulles ban 
on travel to China had been breached again by 41 Americans who had gone to 
Moscow for a Russian-sponsored "youth festival" and had gone on to visit Chirm 
as guests of the Peking government. 


waited for the Americans in perfect concealment. The Chinese were 
transformed, seemingly almost overnight, from scorned or patronized 
weaklings into a formidable foe. In this new role, they contributed 
heavily to the confusion and fright with which some Americans 
greeted the new shapes, dangers, and tasks imposed upon them by 
a world they felt they had never made, and of which most of them 
wanted no part. The China events and their sequel in Korea played 
a large role in creating the atmosphere hospitable to the spasms of 
fear and frustration that shook American public life in the early 
1950*5. "China" and "Red China" became primary symbols in the 
inquisitorial circuses that dominated all our national affairs with the 
notion that traitorous conspirators were responsible for all the de- 
feats and alarms of the time. 

The popular image of "the Chinese people" inevitably began to be 
pressed by these circumstances into new shapes. The vague but nearly 
universal esteem for the Chinese so largely the product of the 
missionaries, Pearl Buck, and the war against Japan could not with- 
stand indefinitely the influence of the new and more hostile environ- 
ment. There are fragments of opinion poll evidence to suggest how 
far it has begun to give way. A National Opinion Research Center 
poll in 1947 indicated, although indirectly, that Chinese were re- 
garded less highly by Americans at that point only than Englishmen, 
Swedes, and Frenchmen, and more highly than Mexicans, Greeks, 
Germans, Russians, and Japanese. 131 Much more directly and specifi- 
cally, in another NORC poll, in March, 1951? 64 per cent of a na- 
tional sample indicated a "favorable impression" of the Chinese 
people. By March, 1955, in an identical poll, this had shrunk to 45 
per cent. Only 21 per cent said in 1951 that they had an "unfavora- 
ble impression" of the Chinese; in 1955, this figure had risen to 40 
per cent. 132 

In our panel of interviewees, the new circumstances and their 
"new" images showed up much less crudely, were less globular and 

131 UNESCO and PubUc Opinion Today, Report No. 35, NORC, Chicago, 


132 National Opinion Research Center, #300, March 20, 1951, #370? 
March 11, 1955, The question was: "I'd like to ask about the people who live in 
certain countries not their governments but the people themselves. In general 

do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of ?" The results showed 

that while esteem for the Chinese was dropping, it was rising steeply for the 
Germans and Japanese. 


more filled with particulars. The entire panel shared, to be sure, a 
common ignorance about what is actually happening to the Chinese 
in Communist China. Yet from all they had read or heard, they 
appeared to have no doubt that the Communists had set out to 
make China over in their own image, to make over the entire fabric 
of the society and its people, that they were engaged on a sweepingly 
pervasive campaign of control and conditioning of a whole vast na- 
tion that was without parallel, even in the history of modern 
totalitarianism. In this process the Communists were clearly effacing 
or displacing or transforming a great many of the images of the 
Chinese which many Americans had held for a long time or were 
threatening to do so. But here too, we found, these were the larger 
images, of the whole country, the whole people, or some whole polit- 
ical or military entity. The individual Chinese in China had become 
a much dimmer and often a rather elusive figure. 

The panelists who knew and liked this individual Chinese in China 
could still know him now only as he knew him then; he had become 
memory, reminiscence, an article of dogged faith. The well- 
entrenched image of him sat intact in the mind's inner sanctum, 
assailed but in most cases quite unshaken. But in the minds of the 
great majority of our panelists, ideas about the Chinese were not so 
firmly fixed and were certainly not located in any inner mental 
sanctum. They floated more freely, rather, in some mental ante- 
chamber, where they were much more easily buffeted or crowded into 
changing shapes by passing circumstances or energetic new arrivals. 
Examples of this kind were frequent: 

I have been surprised by the Communist ability to unify the coun- 
try. ... 

I always thought of lack of political organization, going back to all 
I'd ever heard about China. . . . Now there is greater organizational 
discipline. . . . The Communists seem to be working changes. . . . 

Before the Korean war, I think most Americans thought of the Chi- 
nese as a kindly people. Now there is an association of cruelty. . . . 

The public's idea of the Chinese is now all mixed up with the Com- 
munists. The man in the street probably feels that the Chinese people 
are all right, but are in the grip of a Communist government. There- 
fore his stereotype of the evil and untrustworthy Oriental, which he 
was beginning to lose, is being renewed. 



All the qualities attributed to the "evil and untrustworthy 
Oriental" come into their own in the new circumstances and the new 
hostile setting. They are drawn upon particularly to reinforce one of 
the most powerful of all the "new" images emerging, the image of 
the Chinese as brain-washers. At the time the interviews were con- 
ducted for this study, we still had only the most fragmentary kind 
of picture of the practices and effectiveness of Chinese Communist 
thought control, and we were only just beginning to get some of the 
vivid impressions created by the experience of American war prison- 
ers in Korea, The dilemma of the American subjected to "brain- 
washing" by an unscrupulous and remorseless foe was only just 
becoming the subject of governmental, medical, social scientific, and 
literary inquiry. But it was clear that great power was already at- 
tached to the special mystique which gave the Chinese such extraor- 
dinary skill in the use of these weapons of mental and emotional 
torture. It obviously was going to outstrip by far anything attributed 
to the Russians by way of explanation for the "confessions" of the 
accused in the purge trials of the Stalin era, e.g., as in Arthur 
Koestlefs Darkness At Noon, or as projected by George Orwell in 
1984. For the Chinese there was a whole battery of relevant qualities 
to draw upon, qualities which had been long attributed to them in 
some unique measure in the past: their inhuman cruelty, for one 
thing, and at its service, their inscrutability, their deviousness, their 
subtlety, and their devilish cleverness. 

There are signs that in the shadow of these new images and the 
somber and rather frightening realities they reflect, the older figure 
of the "evil and untrustworthy Oriental" has become rather ridicu- 
lous. The fictionally evil Fu Manchu could hardly compete with a 
real-life Chinese Communist commissar. And indeed, attempts to 
revive the old-style Chinese villain and his old-style villainy appear 
to have fallen quite flat on our TV screens. Fu Manchu reappeared 
as a rather preposterous figure in what a Boston critic described as 
"one of the corniest adventure shows ever seen on TV/' 133 This par- 
ticular show was poor entertainment by any standard, but a similar 
reaction was provoked by similar fare offered on a much more highly 
rated program and starring such dignitaries as Sir Cedric Hardwicke 
and Peter Lorre. "The result," said the New York Times critic, "was 
an insipid Oriental mystery as full of intrigue as a bowl of chow 

133 Boston Record, July 5, 1956. 


mem and a good deal less exhilarating." 154 Nature scoffs at this 
feeble and obsolete art. The new Chinese realities, as we only just are 
beginning to perceive them, still far outrace the plodding fantasies 
of the past. The new cycle has only just opened; our tortoiselike 
imaginations will no doubt doggedly pursue the harelike events of 
our time. 

Meanwhile, the problem of adjusting minds to the new images 
goes on in many different ways. One of our panelists, a distinguished 
historian, said: 

I get a picture of Communist fanaticism winning acceptance. It 
doesn't fit with my previous theory that the Chinese were pragmatic, 
nondoctrinaire, nonmessianic. 

Actually, for those with deeply entrenched^ admiring images of the 
Chinese, there is a great deal in the new situation which does not 
"fit." In the images of the Chinese that they see in the Communist 
mirrors, these Americans see no more deferential politeness, no more 
gratitude, and distressingly little humor; no more philosophic calm, 
no more sage wisdom, no more respect for antiquity or tradition, or 
passive and smiling reliance on timeless verities almost none, in 
short, of all the features that made the Chinese so attractive and 
often so dear. So much so, indeed, that it is frequently impossible 
for some of these Americans to accept the "new" images as being 
"Chinese" at all. They are "Communist" or "Russian," in any case 
alien. "I don't regard the Communist government as Chinese," said 
one panelist, for example. "There isn't any China," said another, 
"it is now part of Russia." 

This notion of the un-Chineseness of the new regime is a necessary 
bulwark for those who see Communist China primarily as the 
product of a new foreign conquest. Their picture is one of a small 
band of alienated Chinese radicals, aided and abetted by the Rus- 
sians, taking advantage of the chaos of war and its aftermath to seize 
the country and to begin lashing the people into new and alien 
molds. This idea recurs in our panel, and it also often appears, not 
at all coincidental^ in the public prints, as in this New York Times 

Mainland China has been conquered by still another external group 
and for the time being by a set of ideas basically foreign to the Chinese 
concept of good living . . . the Confucian ethics that had become part 

134 New York Times, July 28, 1956. 


of the admirable Chinese character. There is no place in the Communist 
world for the personal and family loyalty that were the very heart of 
Chinese society. There is no place for humor and generosity, for patience 
and kindliness, for honor and warmth of heart. 135 

The advantage in thinking of China as a conquered country lies in 
the fact that China, as almost everyone knows, is really unconquer- 
able, that it has always absorbed its foreign rulers and reasserted its 
own culturally sovereign identity. Hence the Communist regime is a 
temporary phenomenon due sooner or later to give way. Here are 
four examples of this familiar concept, offering a range of time spans: 

It is my feeling that the Chinese are so numerous, nobody can 
swallow them. China is unconquerable, even by the Communists. This 
is just a phase, maybe it will take twenty years to get rid of it. ... 

I cannot believe for the life of me that China can long stay Com- 
munist. ... I don't think you can put a Chinaman in a mold. You 
can't do it. It is going to evolve eventually over there in some other 
way in the longer run. But I don't know what the long run is. ... 

China is gone, but it will come back. These people are not easily 
conquered. It may be slow. , . . I see this evolution as lasting a couple 
of hundred years. . . . 

Our fourth panelist in this group found the long historical view con- 
siderably longer than his patience: 

I see the ultimate fate of China as being in our hands, so far as any 
hope of destroying Communism on the mainland goes. The alternative 
is to wait for a thousand years of evolution. 

While for these individuals it is the "un-Chinese" character of the 
regime that guarantees its ultimate downfall, others find hope in it 
precisely because it is Chinese: 

China is too important to stay subservient to Russia very long. . . . 

China will evolve away from Russian communism, but it is opti- 
mistic to think that it will become a Jeffersonian democracy. . . . 

I have a sort of confidence that somehow they will come through 
with a better government, nearer to democratic government than we 
expect. I respect their basic good sense. 

The most common and most pervasive reactions in our panel to 
Communist China are dominated by the notion of released energy. 
York Times, October 10, 1955. 



That special Chinese vitality, mentioned so often as a major trait, 
has now finally been generalized for the nation as a whole. The 
solemn predictions of a century and more are coming to pass. The ef- 
fect is powerful and, for some, quite overwhelming. Most of the 
individuals in this group are without any important previous contact 
or experience in China. The situation has newly burst upon most 
of them, sometimes, indeed, with the impact of a sudden and nearby 
explosion. It is among these individuals that we come upon some 
of the newer postures, e.g., of a certain respectful awe: 

A civilization bottled up for a long time, corroded by the West, 
now bursting forth with tremendous energy. This had to come. The 
Communists are merely riding the crest. . . . 

Ed Fisher 1956 The New Yorker Magazine Inc. 

Morton, you're not going to let a little dust on your trousers 
threaten our entire strategic position in the Far East!" 


A country of 600 million, going to be a tremendous force in the 
world, with a welded leadership, public health, mass ideas, technology, 
terrific potential for change. There is little we can do to alter it. 

Tremendous force on the way to being realized. Great human aggre- 
gation, great dynamism, great biological persistence, destined to play a 
great part in human affairs. . . . 

Or a growing apprehension, as in these remarks of a former high 
government official: 

I feel apprehension, a great deal of apprehension, the feeling that 
the whole pattern of inferiority has disappeared. They've got resources 
and Communist ideology, and a foreign policy based on their tradition 
of expansion. It creates a major danger for the United States. . . . 

Or, again, from a businessman: 

Tremendous potential in unharnessed power. Gives you the creeps 
to think what happens when it gets harnessed the wrong way, as 

The awakened giant is still only half on his feet, but he already looks 
a lot bigger than he did on his back. When, in the mind's eyes of 
some of our panelists, he rises to his full height and starts throwing 
his great weight around, his new dimensions become, as we have 
observed before, apocalyptic: 

We have to build dikes somehow. Chinese power in the next hun- 
dred years will absorb all of Southeast Asia. There will be no stopping 
them. . . . 

I think of a solid Communist bloc from Germany to the Pacific. 
Fear is the honest word 

A prominent politician who was born in the South has this character- 
istic reaction: 

Is China going to take the lead in fomenting feeling against the 
white race? . . . America is much more afraid of Chinese Communism 
than of Russian Communism and I think even Russia is beginning to 
fear that side more than its western borders. . . . China is a rising coun- 
try with tremendous strength, great potential ... a people with dark 
skins who have been exploited. . . . 

A career diplomat: 

In thirty years China will be a tremendous danger to the Orient if 
other countries do not keep up with Chinese advances. Like the dan- 


ger of Japan, a physical, imperialist danger, and to the United States 
too insofar as any expanding imperialistic power blocks the United 
States in. They will try to dominate South Asia and Australia if they 
can. This is inevitable. I do not say this with bitterness or animosity. 
Any nation would do this if it could. . . . 

This great sense of energies released in China is, let it be quite 
clear, no matter merely of image or imagination. This is a "large" 
image which is verified by "large" facts that almost everybody can 
see, even from a great distance, and these facts are, according to 
your disposition, impressive, overwhelming, or frightening. The new 
growth of power in China is no myth. There is nothing ephemeral 
about its rapid industrial progress. There is nothing ephemeral either 
about the system's intellectual robotism, its police terror, and its 
critical problems in agriculture. But carrying all these along with 
them, the Communists, mobilizing great new energies, are rapidly 
changing the face of their country and opening up vast and incalcu- 
lable prospects for the future. The new facts, already marked on the 
economic maps by many multiplying symbols, have already become 
part of a broad public impression. Thus, for example, Life magazine 
not prone to sympathetic illusions about Communist China pub- 
lished in January, 1957, a series of pictures made by a New Zealand 
cameraman in China, shots of Chinese men and women workers 
laying rails, pumping oil, building bridges, using modern farm ma- 
chinery, studying in laboratories, taking off on pioneer treks to con- 
struction projects along the distant frontiers. This picture report, 
remarked Life, made it clear "that Red China has made some for- 
midable efforts" and added: "If it reaches its set goals, Communist 
China, by 1962, will rank among the world's ten top industrial 
powers." 136 

But Communist China, still an industrial pygmy compared to the 
Soviet Union or the United States, already clearly ranked among 
the world's top three or four powers in the matter of international 
influence and importance. By its sheer economic and military weight, 
Russia remained after Stalin the center of power in the Communist 
world, but the mantle of status and prestige within the Soviet orbit 
began to pass, almost perceptibly, to the Communist rulers in Peking. 
The redistribution of effective influence along the Moscow-Peking 
axis within the Communist orbit is alreadyeven though still nascent 

136 Life, January 21, 1957. 


and tentative one of the most significant developments in world 

The special aura of Chinese prestige and unique power and inde- 
pendence within the Soviet orbit was displayed in many ways even 
before Stalin's death. Peking became the Meccalike center of the 
Communist world. There are great ironies and meanings to be ex- 
plored in the fact that it was the European Communist who gained 
prestige by traveling to Peking and brushing shoulders there with 
Mao Tse-tung and his top cohorts. 137 But the new and pivotal posi- 
tion of the Chinese Communists became universally apparent begin- 
ning late in 1956, when the Moscow regime was badly shaken by 
the near breakup of its Eastern European satellite empire with the 
revolts against Moscow authority in Poland and Hungary. The Polish 
Communists, pressing for a somewhat more sovereign status, leaned 
heavily and publicly on the impression that the Chinese Communists 
looked kindly on their cause. "The new Polish leadership," reported 
a Times correspondent from Warsaw, "attributed the Polish revolu- 
tion against Stalinism in great part to the strong and continuous 
support from the Chinese Communist leaders." The report quoted 
"responsible Polish sources" on China's "ever-increasing impact on 
the affairs of Communist countries in Europe, including the Soviet 
Union" and predicted that "Chinese influence will continue to play 
an even more important role as time passes." 138 The Russians 
barely managed to hold on in Hungary by brute force and in Poland 
by temporizing, and the repercussions of these events began to pull 
Communist parties apart all over the world. Communist capitals 
buzzed with reports that Khrushchev had even flown secretly to 
Peking to invoke Mao Tse-tung 7 s support. The sequel was, in any 
event, a statement from Peking coming powerfully to the Kremlin's 
aid, while stressing the need for "rectifying errors of the past" in 
relations between Communist parties. Chou En-lai, the Chinese 
Communist premier, traveled first to Moscow and then to Warsaw 
and Budapest expressly as the advocate of preserving the solidarity 
of the Communist bloc under Russian leadership. He re-established 

137 The flavor of this is communicated by a sentence in a Berlin dispatch 
about a difficult moment in the life of the East German Communist government 
late in 1955: "In another development, perhaps designed to increase the prestige 
of the East German regime, it was announced that Premier Otto Grotewohl had 
accepted an invitation from Communist China to visit Peiping." New York 
Times, December 5, 1955. 

York Times, December 25, 1956. 


in some degree that compliance with Moscow's rule which in the 
language of the Soviet bloc is called "proletarian internationalism." 
In this process, as observers all over the world were quick to guess, 
the key role of arbiter, if not leader, in the Communist power bloc 
passed in effect from the Kremlin to the men who sit under the 
golden tiles of Peking's Forbidden City. In Moscow, too, there must 
be great changes to record in the images leaders have of the Chinese. 

The Chinese as Warrior 

Around the sleeping giant a whole conception was woven: philo- 
sophic calm and patience, timelessness, immobility, an intelligence 
too great for combativeness or truculence, a genius for achieving ends 
not by bruising direct action but by smooth circumlocution, a wis- 
dom too weary with years to accept the angry haste and short-lived 
violences of Western man. The giant shredded this gossamer web 
as he rose, full now of his own haste, crudity, violence, impatience, 
and aggressive self-assertion. Now he is dangerously vital, vigorous, 
energetic, bursting out at all his seams. Of all the shifts and displace- 
ments this requires in our mental picture of the Chinese, none is 
more radical or sweeping than the changes in our image of China as 
a military power and of the Chinese as a warrior. 

These changes have been in the making for some time. They 
were already visible in American estimates of the Communist armies 
during the war with Japan. They were spurred by the events of the 
Communist take-over in China in 1948-49. But they really came into 
their own in American minds as a result of what happened after the 
Chinese intervened in the Korean war in the winter of 1950. Some 
vivid examples of how individuals experienced this change turned up 
in several interviews. A Congressman said: 

I could not visualize the Oriental as a terrific, rugged, capable sol- 
dier. It was first brought home to me in Korea in 1951. Iron Mike 
O'Daniel told me the Chinese army was as well staffed and trained as 
any he knew. . . . Seemed strange for Chinamen, went against the 
whole idea Fd ever had of the Chinese. ... I knew a streak of cruelty 
was there, but couldn't quite see them as the terrible, tenacious soldiers 
they turned out to be. ... 

One of the country's best-known newsmen: 

They have a limitless manpower and from my experience in Korea, 
a technical skill far in excess of what Americans ever thought possible. 



The Chinese were better artillerymen than the Germans ever were. 
This was quite a shock, considering one's previous picture. I remember 
a sergeant who said to me: "We thought all we had to do was show 
them our uniforms, and they would run like hell. Instead they shot 

the out of us." With some allowance for exaggeration, this 

was my experience too. 

Or this, finally, from a former high official of the Eisenhower admin- 

I was brought up to think the Chinese couldn't handle a machine. 
Now, suddenly, the Chinese are Eying jets I The American idea was 
that Asiatics are nonmechanical, except the Japanese, and the Japa- 
nese were freaks, not really mechanical, just copied what others did. 
In practically everything one ever read . . . the Asiatic is always plow- 
ing with his fingernails and the European is handling the machine. 


San Francisco Chronicle 


Now the Chinese is flying a jet! Disturbing, especially since you have 
several hundred million of them teamed up with the USSR. I always 
thought the Yellow Peril business was nonsense. . . . Now I can 
visualize that Asiatics teamed up with the Slavs could indeed conquer 
the world! 

It required an experience as jolting as that in Korea to introduce 
these new images of the Chinese as a warrior, for the contrary 
images of the Chinese as unaggressive, nonmechanical, and unmartial 
are among the oldest and most deeply imbedded in our entire gal- 
lery. Indeed, to find almost any generalized image of the Chinese as 
dangerous fighting men, one has to go all the way back to their 
non-Chinese antecedents and onetime conquerors, the Mongol 
hordes of Genghiz Khan, which overran so much of the known 
world in the twelfth century. The encounter with the Chinese army 
in Korea, "human sea" and all, in a way signaled another sort of 
rounding of the circle: our images of the Chinese as warriors had 
progressed from fearful hordes to fearful hordes in seven centuries. 

Maybe That's Why They're Called 'Reds'! 

NEA Service, Inc. 



THE MONGOL HORDES: The idea of the Mongol hordes has never 
lurked very far from the more generalized images of "Asiatic" or 
"Oriental" barbarism. It might lie dormant for long periods, but it 
is summoned up at a touch, instantly revived by some evidence of 
wanton cruelty or by some particularly fearful event. A crowded 
panoply of images and sensations seemingly waits in almost every 
Western man's mind, ready to move at the cue. A recent and some- 
what mordant example of this occurred in the report of a refugee 
from the Russian repression of the Hungarian revolt in November, 
1956. He said that Russian soldiers in Budapest had "refused to 
fight us" but finally had been "terrorized" into turning their guns 
against the rebels after the Soviet Union "had sent in new and 
tougher troops, including two Mongolian divisions." The Mongols 
had "terrorized" the Russians, and the wanton slaughter began. 139 
Here even the onus for Russian Communist barbarism is shifted 
from white Europeans to twentieth-century descendants of the same 
Mongol barbarians who had been to Budapest at least once before 
in 1241, when the hordes of Batu Khan had destroyed a Hungarian 
army, put the city of Pesth to the torch, and covered the land with 
the corpses of its people. 

During a time of severe tension in the Formosa Strait in 1955 
when the threat of an American war with Communist China was 
strong in people's minds, I heard a White House official at a Wash- 
ington dinner suddenly summon up this same ancestral specter. The 
discussion made him think, he said, of a fantastic story he had 
once read. It was called "The Red Napoleon," written by the sensa- 
tionalist Floyd Gibbons for the Hearst press in 1929. Nightmarishly 
illustratedmainly with the ravished bodies of white women it 
had depicted the rise of a new Genghiz Khan somewhere in Com- 
munist Asia. At the head of a new Mongol barbarian horde, this new 
Khan would come close to conquering the world in a war which 
Gibbons imagined as taking place between 1933 and 1938. This 
particular series was only one of many in a chain of newspapers that 
constantly screamed with huge headlines and lurid pictures. Yet it 
had made a deep and permanent scratch on this one person's mind, 
who could not have been much more than sixteen at the time and 
found himself now a member of a President's staff. 

The Chinese Communists themselves have borrowed something 

York Times, November 15, 1956. 


of the aura of the Genghiz Khan image. They built a new mausoleum 
for the Mongol conqueror in Inner Mongolia and in June, 1956, on 
the yzgth anniversary of his death, staged a great memorial service 
in his honor. 

THE LOW-STATUS WARRIOR: Between our images of the barbarian 
hordes of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the rise of the 
successor hordes and their successor images in the twentieth, a 
wholly different set of notions intervened about the Chinese as war- 
riors. These quite contrary ideas have dominated all but the most 
recent history linking Americans and Chinese. One of the best- 
known of these was based on the fact that traditional Chinese society 
put a low value on the soldier. He was no pariah Chinese history is 
full of its warrior-heroes but socially he was ranked at the bottom 
of the ladder. This tradition was, like many others in Chinese life, 
more formal than real. But it was real enough to form one of the 
many differences between Chinese ideas and the rougher-and-readier 
canons of European or especially of Anglo-Saxon culture. It was 
one of the "odd" things about the Chinese, and it helped create the 
contempt in which, as we have seen, dominant Westerners came to 
hold the Chinese after they found they could defeat them so easily 
in war. On the other hand, the nonmartial spirit of the Chinese was 
sanctioned, in theory at least, by some of the central ideas in pro- 
fessed Western religion; the Christian pacifist could hardly scoff at 
it with an easy conscience. It also played a part in creating the 
idealized image of reasonableness the Chinese were too civilized to 
think that anything could be accomplished by fighting, something 
Westerners had yet to learn. In these and other ways, the low value 
placed by the Chinese on professional soldiering contributed to the 
high value placed on Chinese wisdom, serenity, and superior culture. 

THE COMIC OPERA WARRIOR: A corollary and more familiar image 
associated with more recent times was definitely comic in its impact; 
the image of the comic opera Chinese soldier of the war-lord era, 
roughly the decades between 1912 and 1937. This was the Chinese 
soldier carrying an umbrella and a token rifle, the era of the armies 
that fought battles across teacups, of victories won by "silver bullets" 
i.e., through the judicious purchase of treason in the camp of the 
foe or by compromise arrangements to live and let live. The impres- 
sion left by most of the voluminous writing by Americans in this 


period was one of recurring civil wars which managed to disrupt the 
life of the country without ever quite attaining the bloody dignity of 
actual conflict. The Chinese soldier and his war-lord master became 
in this time the butt of a good deal of scornful humor in the foreign 
press. Of this humor Major (now Brigadier General, retired) Thomas 
Magruder wrote in 1931: 

Insofar as this humor expresses the essential nonmartial character of 
the soldiers, it is an accurate reflection of the facts. ... By nature the 
Chinese have never been and are not now a warlike people . . . they have 
developed no scientific military traditions. ... At heart the Chinese be- 
lieve that the continuance of their race . . . will not be accomplished by 
the exercise of military qualities. Their confident faith in their destiny 
seems to lie in their one-mindedness, patience, and persistence ... in a 
locust-like mass momentum and propagation. . . . 

Magruder said that he had observed that the Chinese soldier would 
fight for some direct personal interest, mainly his livelihood, but 
could not be aroused by any matter of pure or abstract principle. He 

If martial spirit does grow, the development will be a slow process. 
It will not necessarily be a concomitant of the present rapid social and 
political change. It will be the result of a fundamental change in national 
character. Given money, equipment, and training, there is no doubt that 
a first class fighting machine can be made of, say, 20,000 Bulgars or Turks. 
The same cannot be said of the 20,000 Chinese without numerous quali- 
fications. The difference has nothing to do with physical stamina, cour- 
age, or intelligence. It is spiritual, or possibly intellectual, and may be 
loosely summed up in those racial qualities which create a natural antip- 
athy for joining battle with an enemy instead of a relish for combat. . . . 
I have never heard of a Chinese militarist . . . who at heart was not a 
man of peace. 140 

This analysis has been undergoing the contradiction of events almost 
since it was written, though much had to happen before Hanson 
Baldwin, writing in 1951, in a direct commentary on the Magruder 
article could say: 

That the world no longer thinks of the Chinese in terms of pacifism 
is a measure of the change in China. . . . The picture we once entertained 
of the somewhat benign, inscrutable but wise and civilized Chinese, too 

140 "The Chinese as a Fighting Man/' Foreign Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 2, Janu- 
ary 1931, pp. 469-476. 


intelligent for war an oversimplified caricature 20 years ago has even 
less validity today. For the future China is in the hands of peasant stock, 
of patient men who have shown on many battlefields that they will fight. 
We have learned this, somewhat to our surprise and at heavy cost, in 
Korea. 141 

Between the unsoldierly soldier of Major Magruder's day and the 
fighting men encountered in Korea, several transitional figures passed 
whom we have already glimpsed. The comic opera Chinese soldier 
disappeared forever in the bloody abysses of the Japanese war. In 
his place came the heroic defender of his land, and after him the 
brave and hardy but hapless victim of the corruption and ineptitude 
of his leaders. Chiang Kai-shek, says the U. S. Army history of the 
war in China, indicated to General Stilwell "his belief that masses of 
the latest and best materiel would win the war." 

Stilwell retorted that the only way was to reorganize thoroughly the 
Chinese army. His point then, and later, was that it was fatuous to give 
a medium tank or a howitzer to a peasant soldier who had never seen 
anything more complex than his father's wheelbarrow; that the Chinese 
army had to be trained and reorganized before it could profitably be given 
new equipment. To this belief the Chinese never subscribed. 142 

The collapse of Chiang Kai-shek's armies before the Communists in 
1948-49 confirmed the picture these Americans already had of an 
amorphous, buttery mass, incapable of functioning effectively, too 
ridden by backwardness and dishonesty, unable to make good use 
of modern weapons and techniques. Such was the final military judg- 
ment offered from the field by the general commanding the United 
States Advisory Group in 1948: 

No battle has been lost since my arrival due to lack of ammunition or 
other factors. Their military debacles in my opinion can all be attributed 
to the world's worst leadership and many other morale-destroying factors 
that lead to a complete loss of the will to fight [and] the complete in- 
eptness throughout the Armed Forces. . . , 143 

141 "China as a Military Power/' Foreign Affairs, Vol. 30, No. i, October 
1951, p. 51. 

142 Stilwell' s Mission to China, p. 155. Similar observations dot the whole 
record. For an account based on talks with officers in the field, cf. Harold R. 
Isaacs, ''Ignorant Men and Modem Weapons/' Newsweek, November 20, 1944, 
pp. 44-48. 

143 Major General David Barr to Department of the Army, November 16, 
1948, quoted in United States Relations With China, Department of State, 
Washington, D. C., August 1949, p. 358. 


Of the Communist armies, a certain number of Americans had 
begun to acquire a more respectful picture, both during the war 
against Japan and the civil war that followed. 144 But the difference 
did not impress itself deep or far. Most of the Americans concerned 
apparently continued to believe, as General Barr did, that in the 
showdown conflicts of the civil war, "only the active participation 
of United States troops could affect a remedy/' The real displace- 
ment of American images of the Chinese as warriors did not take 
place until Americans faced Chinese as foes in Korea. 

The Human Sea 

In October, 1950, American Eighth Army intelligence officers in 
Korea reported the appearance of Chinese units along the North 
Korean front. The military historian S. L. A. Marshall has written 
that these reports were regarded with considerable concern by offi- 
cers on the ground. But we still have no clear picture of how these 
reports were received and evaluated as they rose along the echelons 
to the top command. We do not know if they were ignored, or 
underestimated, or scornfully rejected. We do not know whether 
the presence of a large Chinese army was doubted or whether the 
decision-makers, like the sergeant quoted by one of our panelists, 
thought that "all we had to do was show them our uniforms and they 
would run like hell." The fact is that General Douglas MacArthur 
did not regard these reports as a deterrent to his planned action. 
He went ahead on November 24 with his famous "home-by-Christ- 
mas" offensive. When the American troops came staggering back 
from the impact of the Chinese armies that so unexpectedly struck 
them, a whole epoch passed and a swift and massive displacement 
of images had taken place. 

Chinese soldiery, hitherto always seen as a pulpy and ineffectual 
mass, had suddenly become a powerfully threatening foe. The pic- 
ture was one of a small American and allied force being engulfed 
by a vast Chinese army which had concealed itself with a skill at 
deception that was, in Colonel Marshall's words, "suited to the 
Oriental nature." The effect was a pell-mell retreat in pell-mell dis- 
order. The new realities of that battlefield were grim enough, but 

144 One of the early enthusiastically admiring accounts was given by Evans 
Carlson, The Chinese Army, New York, 1940. A considerably more imromantic 
view appears in Lt. Col. Robert Riggs, Red China's Fighting Hordes, Harrisburg, 
Pennsylvania, 1951. 


they were swiftly compounded by the old, old mythologies that lay 
so readily to hand, all the nameless fears implied, for example, in 
Colonel Marshall's description of an engagement in which an 
American force "was swamped by a yellow tide which moved upon 
it from all sides." 145 The "yellow tide" in Korea swept up all sorts 
of ancestral memories. The "new" images were built up swiftly, not 
only out of the reality of the new foe, but out of materials that 
had lain long in the recesses of time and the mind. The Mongol 
hordes had reappeared. 

The first and principal ingredient of this "new" image of the 
Chinese was the idea of their numbers, their sheer vast numbers. 
"The Chinese Communist army . . . combat effectiveness was lim- 
ited to the tactic of the 'human sea/ " wrote General Mark Clark, 
"because all it had initially was an overwhelming superiority in num- 
bers of men. . . . The enemy hurled overwhelming numbers of men 
at us, apparently heedless of how many he lost." 146 This indifference 
to life and death is a second dominating aspect of the new set of 
images. ("It is well to remember," wrote Hanson Baldwin, "that 
the Chinese soldier springs from a land where life is cheap. . . . 
[He] is fatalistic, with little regard for human life." 14T ) Necessarily 
coupled to this was a special quality of cruel sadism. ("There is a 
sadism and brutality inherent in many Asiatics," observed Colonel 
Riggs, "that is not commonly found within men of the better edu- 
cated areas of the world." This special brutality is being spread, he 
went on, "to countless masses of uniformed robots." 14S ) A third in- 
gredient is described variously as "blind obedience" or "stupid au- 
tomatism" or "iron discipline" the quality that made it possible 
for Chinese soldiers to act with suicidal madness, like marching 
squarely into the face of murderous fire until ordered to stop. Mar- 
shall quotes one officer as saying: "It was like dealing with mass 
lunacy." 149 Baldwin notes that this behavior led to the popular 
notion, which he adds he could never verify, that Chinese soldiers 
were "hopped up with opium" before going into action. 150 

145 The River and the Gauntlet, New York, 1953, P- 21O > italics supplied. 
Col. Riggs, in his study of the Chinese Red forces, usually calls them "ochre 

146 Marie Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, New York, 1954, pp. 87-101. 

147 Baldwin, loc. cit. 

148 Riggs, pp. ig, 105. 

149 Marshall, op. cit., p. 105. 

150 Baldwin, loc. cit. r p. 55. 


The reader will recognize in all of these some older and quite 
well-established images, assigned in the recent past to the Japanese 
and restored here once more to the Chinese. Here again, on Korean 
battlefields, were the facekss masses, the cruel and nerveless sub- 
humans, the incomprehensible and the inscrutable Chinese whom 


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1951 


we have met before in other times and places, reappearing out of 
obscurity to stand again in the foreground of the imagination to 
help "explain" the main picture to emerge from this phase of the 
Korean War, a picture of an overwhelming mass overcoming by "hu- 
man sea assaults" the technically superior but numerically inferior 
American foe. 

As fact and as phrase, "the human sea" experience in the Korean 
war is a subject for an inquiry in itself. As phrase, it became part of 
the daily jargon of war reporting, e.g.: 

Attacking in a "human sea" offensive, the enemy infantry had rolled 
forward eighteen to twenty miles ... in the traditional pattern of the 
Korean war, matched sheer manpower of infantry armed with rifles and 
machine guns against the mechanized Allied army. . . . 151 

As described in a Saturday Evening Post article: 

The "human sea assault" is a most wasteful but effective device. . . . 
In this limitless resource of expendable manpower lies the Chinese Red 
Army's strength. Squads, platoons, and companies are organized into the 
much publicized assault units. Each unit flings itself into battle at the 
command "Charge!" The men in these rushes keep going until they are 
cut down by the enemy or gain their objective. 152 

What was the "human sea" as fact? This appears to be more difficult 
to answer Even a cursory reading of the battle reporting and com- 
mentary of the time suggests a number of questions which we can 
hardly expect to answer here. In the literal sense of onrushing 
charges of seemingly insane men dying in droves until they have 
overrun their objective, how much of it actually occurred? Many 
of the contemporary reports seemed to suggest that it was happen- 
ing all the time. But Andrew Geer, the Marine historian, writing in 
1952, enters a sharp dissent: 

"Human sea" frontal assaults are rare and are ordered as a last resort 
when the necessity for victory dictates such a high cost. Newspapers have 
reported "human sea" attacks on United Nations positions on many occa- 
sions. Actually there have been few such attacks made by the Chinese 
forces in Korea. Such tactics were reported as an excuse for the defeat 
suffered by United Nations troops. 153 

isi New "York Times, April 25, 1951. 

152 Saturday Evening Post, January 27, 1951. 

153 Andrew Geer, The New Breed, New York, 1952, p. 221. 


Did it come to be used more loosely, to describe, say, the infiltration 
tactics which the Chinese used so skillfully, or even, most simply, 
to describe the larger number of enemy troops in almost any opera- 
tion? Did the phrase "human sea" come to have a life of its own? 
Did operations officers, communique writers, correspondents, editors, 
and headline writers add, through this phrase, their own mental 
images of what was going on? Did the phrase help evoke the strong 
sense of difference between one's own side and those fantastic masses 
of goofe or chinks, subhumans, indifferent alike in killing or in dy- 
ing? Did it help rationalize later, in the counteroffensives which 
finally deadlocked the war, "Operation Killer" the concerted design 
for the most massive possible killing of this innumerable and inex- 
haustible foe? 

Before the Korean War ended, the new image of the Chinese 
as warrior and foe became something more than a vision of vast 
numbers, of massed barbarians kin to the Mongol hordes. These 
were Mongol hordes with big guns and jet aircraft and a growing 
number among them who knew how to use these weapons with con- 
siderable precision and skill. A new conception arose not only of the 
Chinese as warrior but the Chinese as technician. These were only 
yesterday backward semi-idiots who knew only how to kill or to die, 
people of an unindustrialized country not at home with complicated 
machinery, ingenious but essentially "not mechanical-minded." 154 
But in Korea they began, as we have already heard, to impress some 
Americans as "better artillerymen than the Germans" and soon 
after that war the Chinese were being held responsible for the 
superior technical showing of Ho Chi-minh's Communist forces at 
the siege of Dienbienphu in the climactic battle of the Indochina 
war. On April 5, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles read to 
a Congressional committee a top United States intelligence report 
which he called an "ominous story/' It recited these six points: 

i. A Chinese Communist general is stationed at the Dienbienphu 
headquarters ... of the Vietminh commander. 

154 The persistent power of these stereotypes in the face of contradictory evi- 
dence is illustrated by Hanson Baldwin's sentence: "The Chinese are not me- 
chanical-minded; their maintenance of vehicles and motorized equipment is poor; 
breakdowns are numerous, yet many trucks are kept running literally with baling- 
wire." Loc. cit., p. 58. 


2. Under him there are nearly a score of Chinese Communist technical 
military advisers . . . [and] numerous others at division level. 

3. There are special telephone lines installed, maintained and operated 
by Chinese personnel. 

4. There are ... 37mm anti-aircraft guns, radar controlled, at Dien- 
bienphu which are shooting through the clouds to bring down French 
aircraft. These guns are operated by Chinese. 

5. ... there are approximately 1,000 supply trucks ... all driven by 
Chinese army personnel. 

6. ... the artillery, ammunition and equipment generally comes from 
Communist China. 155 

The enormous irony of the change implied by the tone of this report 
becomes most apparent when we compare it to the despair with 
which American military men had regarded the Chinese army barely 
a decade before. Then it was the Americans who were the technical 
advisers, Americans who set up and operated communications sys- 
tems, Americans who threw up their hands at the way Chinese ar- 
tillerymen handled their 37mm guns 156 and the way Chinese drivers 
abused the trucks they had been given to drive. The Chinese were 
almost universally thought to be hopelessly backward and incapable 
of marshaling a military power dangerous to anybody but them- 
selves. Yet now these same people had become not only formidable 
foes themselves but "ominous" as mentors of their own lesser allies 
in Korea and Vietnam. 157 

This transformation of the Chinese from a nonwarlike to a highly 
warlike people and of China from a weakling among nations to a 
major power was accomplished with remarkable rapidity. Under the 
heading "Aggressive China Becomes a Menace/' Life said: 

China's Red Army, a guerrilla rabble 20 years ago, had been built into 
a menacingly Russianized fighting force. . . , 158 

155 New York Times, April 6 7 1954. 

156 Talking about 37mm guns, here is a sentence from a wartime despatch 
of my own: "New weapons are often abused. I saw a 37-millimeter gun that had 
fired 100 rounds without ever having its barrel swabbed. It was a total loss." 
Newsweek, November 20, 1944. 

15T At the beginning of the Israeli-Egyptian hostilities in November, 1956, 
Cairo radio news reported the rumor that Chinese pilots were coming as volun- 
teers to fly Egypt's Russian-built MIG jets. The appearance of this rumor was in 
itself a measure of the transformation of current images of the Chinese as war- 
riors. Individuals young enough to have received their impressions of the Chinese 
only since the Korean War would find nothing incongruous or even surprising in 
the availability of Chinese as pilots for these superadvanced aircraft. 

158 Life, November 20, 1950. 


General Douglas MacArthur, who had made the discovery at first 
hand, so to speak, told Congress on his return in 1951: 

The Chinese people have become militarized in their concepts and 
their ideals. They now constitute excellent soldiers, with competent staffs 
and commanders. This has produced a new and dominant power in 
Asia. . , . 15 

In his revised estimate of Chinese military power, Hanson Baldwin 

The "Yellow Peril" in the sense we once used the term cannot exist 
until China is organized, developed, and industrialized a process that 
will surely require not years but decades. . . . We are unlikely to see a 
Red China colossus emerge, fully helmeted and armored, in our lifetime. 
More dangerous is the possibility still only that that the Chinese 
Army may gradually be Russianized. . . . Meanwhile these conclusions 
cannot be gainsaid: The Chinese Army, little regarded in the past, is 
now a major political factor in the Orient. . . , 10 

An American army colonel predicted to a Boston audience: "The 
Chinese Communist army will be the world's most dynamic fighting 
machine by 1970," so much so that by that time the survival of the 
United States will "be in doubt." 161 

In our present panel, the sense of this transformation of image 
is strong. The quality of it is but suggested, perhaps, by the words 
and tone of a Midwestern publisher: 

I never thought of the Chinese as belligerent. I never thought we 
would be risking war with them. A peasant country! It would have 
been inconceivable to me even five or ten years ago that we could have 
a war with China. Now I see China as a formidable foe. . . . 

From this picture the friendly, attractive, admirable individual 
Chinese has almost completely disappeared. The shape of our new 
images waits, in the most literal sense, on the shape of things to 

York Times, April 20, 1951. 

160 Hanson Baldwin, loc. eft., pp. 52, 62. 

161 Boston Herald, February 25, 1956. 



BY CONTRAST to the scratches on our minds about China, the 
marks left in the past by India are many fewer and much 
fainter. The difference, moreover, is not merely one of quantity but 
of kind, a difference that imposes itself on almost all the scattered 
pieces of the pattern as we discover them. 

There are no Indian counterparts for the many familiar links to 
China or the Chinese, like digging that hole through the earth, fire- 
crackers, Chinese checkers, Chinese puzzles, Chinatowns, Chinese 
restaurants, laundries, and laundrymen, nothing like the popularity 
of Chinese food or the familiarity of Chinese touches in home dec- 
oration and furniture. A large part of the reason for this, of course, 
is that Indians, unlike Chinese, never became such a visible part of 
American life; they never emigrated to this country in such num- 
bers, never became familiar figures, never acquired any comparable 
role in the literature or lore of the land. 

There is, in addition, the special North American ambiguity about 
the word "Indian." Thanks to the remarkable perpetuation of Co- 
lumbus' historic error, the word Indian in this country generally 
suggests American Indian, the Apaches, the Sioux, Sitting Bull, 
Geronimo, Hiawatha. As such it is prefixed to a great many words 
in the American language; we all know Indian beads, Indian nuts, 
Indian file, Indian war whoops, the Indian sign, Indian givers, and 


so on. In the many columns of such words listed in the larger dic- 
tionaries there are a few which originate in some relation to India 
rather than to North America, but you are not likely to find familiar 
ones among them unless you happen to be a user of something like 
Indian ipecac (a milkweedlike plant, says Webster, used as an 
emetic). India ink and India rubber are more commonly known, 
although, as the dictionary discloses, neither one is actually of Indian 
origin. Almost everything Indian we encounter has no connection 
whatever with India. Thus at the very outset of any discovery at all 
about India 7 young Americans have to face and overcome this con- 
siderable confusion of terms. Indians who come to this country must 
frequently do likewise. In one home I know this difficulty was met 
when the youngsters were small by establishing the separate existence 
of what were called American Indians and Indian Indians, but this 
hardly has become a usual American practice. 

Beyond all this, one looks almost in vain for anything in school- 
ing, the common speech, or environment to fix links to India in the 
time of our minds' growing up. There is nothing from school days 
to match the evocative power of the Marco Polo story, no phrases 
from the ordinary parlance of the later years like damned clever, these 
Chinese or the later Confucius say, no villain like Fu Manchu, no 
hero like Charlie Chan. How many know that the game parchisi is 
called "the royal game of India"? Not a single panelist mentioned it. 
How many would think of India in connection with Cashmere wool? 
The phrase sacred cow is common, but it appears to have become 
so fully naturalized as an American colloquialism that it has lost 
all touch with its Indian origin. There are some words we use 
though not too commonlywhich in themselves suggest their Indian 
origin: rajah, nabob, yogi. But many more familiar words from the 
Hindi and Sanskrit sources have largely lost their Indian identity: 
mogul, thug, khaki, pajama, pundit, calico, bandanna, etc. There 
are some other phrases of limited currency: some Western cattlemen 
doubtless know the relatively recent ancestry of the Brahman breed, 
and in New England and among literary folk the term Boston Brah- 
min has become fairly well established since it was first used this way 
nearly a century ago (apparently by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his 
novel Elsie Venner) to describe the Boston upper crust. 1 None of 

1 It is rather striking to note how many of these borrowed Indian words refer 
to ultrahigh status in society rajah, nabob, mogul, pundit, Brahmin and that 
these all have a certain negative flavor as used in American parlance. 

Lon Chancy played 
an early murderous 
Chinatown villain in 
Bits of Life (First 
National, 1921). 

Ugly Eastern evil has 
handsome Western vir- 
tue temporarily in its 
power in Mr. Wu 
(M-G-M, 1927). 

Boris Karloff character- 
izing the most famous 
of all fictional Chinese 
villains in one of many 
films, The Mask of 
Fu Manchu (M-G-M, 
1932) . . . 

And the most famous 
of the Chinese heroes 
who displaced him, 
Charlie Chan, played 
here by Warner Oland 
in Charlie Chan at the 
Circus (2oth Century 
Fox, 1936). 

Pearl Buck's The Good Earth (M-G-M, 1936) brought real Chinese 
landscapes and plain Chinese folk to American screens for the first 

Paul Muni as Wang Lung and Luise Rainer as O-lan, the two prin- 
cipal characters of The Good Earth, fixed firm images of Chinese 
peasants in the minds of a whole generation in the United States and 
many other parts of the world where the film was shown. Below, in 
a group, they look out over the lands they till. 

The exotic and gem-encrusted character of the Indian maharajah (as shown 
here in Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Paramount, 1936) was a familiar feature of 
numerous films over the years, creating a powerful stereotype which is only 
now slowly receding in the wake of the disappearing originals on which it was 

Indians in Hollywood pictures usually had mysterious, mystical, or 
magical powers, even when they were maidens played by Myrna Loy, 
shown here with a disguised Victor McLaglcn in The Black Watch 
(Fox, 1929). 

Three British troopers in the hands of a band of fanatic Thugs in 
Gunga Din (R.K.O. ? 1939) led by a man (at left) gotten up to look 
much like Gandhi. The troopers (McLaglen again, Douglas Fair- 
banks Jr. and Gary Grant) got away. 

East- West romance, shown here in one of its earliest and most famous 
tragic outcomes (Broken Blossoms, Griffith, 1919), invariably had to 
end in death or renunciation, or in the discovery that through some 
Gilbertian happenstance he (or she) was marriageably non-Oriental 
after all. 

Love was a hopeless 
dilemma in Son of 
India (M-G-M, 1931). 

It is less hopeless nowadays, though still a dilemma, and certainly 
more daring, as in this advertisement for The Rains of Ranchipur 
(zoth Century Fox, 1955). 


these seems to qualify as a reasonably universal or even widely 
familiar American association with things Indian. Perhaps the near- 
est thing to such a phrase in our common speech might be the 
Black Hole of Calcutta, which is used to denote a dungeonlike pit 
or a pitlike dungeon. I suspect, however, that a great many people 
who use the phrase would be unable now to locate the original as 
fact or fiction or to fix it in time or identify who originally put 
whom into any such place. 

The most common currency in our Indian associations appears 
in the surviving fragments of our inheritance from Kipling. Of the 
181 individuals interviewed for this study, 69 spontaneously men- 
tioned Kipling as a source for early impressions relating to India, 
and it seems reasonable to guess that many more would have re- 
called him if specifically jogged on the point. It became clear in any 
case that Kipling's India was still part of the mental baggage car- 
ried about by a great many Americans of youthful maturity or older. 
On closer examination, however, the Kipling associations with India 
often turned out to be vague, blurry, or not Indian at all. The men- 
tion of India might evoke the name Kipling, but a majority, when 
they thought of Kipling, went on to think of the Jungle Books, 
which became and have remained children's classics divorced from 
all time or place, or of Kim, who was, after all, a European, or the 
lama in his story, who was Tibetan, or of the array of English char- 
acters building, keeping, or impeding the Empire in a hot, difficult, 
dangerous land peopled, especially at its fringes, by turbulent tribes 
which periodically had to be punished for their recalcitrance. Vir- 
tually no recognizable Indians swim up in memory out of Kipling, 
With rare exceptions, they remain faceless, the lesser breed for whom 
England had assumed the -white mans burden, perhaps the best- 
known of all the tag lines associated with Kipling's name. Oddly 
few individuals mentioned Gunga Din, considering the fact that the 
line You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din did move in its 
time from the status of a classroom declamation piece into the com- 
mon speech. Indeed, it might even be possible to say that Gunga 
Din was the Indian name best known to Americans until the advent 
of Gandhi, although just how Indian it remained is at least open to 
question. The resurrection of Gunga Din in a moving picture of 
that name produced by RKO in 1939 and revived for showing in 
1954 introduced post-Kipling generations to the cringing and rather 
pathetic creature whose doglike devotion and ultimate sacrifice for 


his British masters might have pleased the bearers of the burden but 
could hardly have made him a folk hero in India. 2 

The elusive character of these fragments in our lives touching 
upon India goes as far back as we can take the matter. India too 
figured in the romantic clipper ship trade of the early days of the 
Republic but always more vaguely, somehow, than China, even down 
to the matter of its identity as a geographical fact. The terms India, 
East India, East Indies, or the Indies seem to have been used more 
or less interchangeably. Boston's India Wharf, a last relic of that 
trade, was destroyed by fire only recently, in March, 1955. The name 
had been associated with the spot since 1804 wh^n, the news accounts 
said, "clipper ships laden with spices and other cargo from the Indies 
tied up there." Other relics of the time remain in the museum at 
Salem, in some art collections, and in occasional literary references. 
But there was a fine vagueness about terms and identities which 
often makes it appear that India was usually blended with the blur- 
rier "Indies" or even confused with China, or lumped with China 
and all the rest in an amorphous "East" or "Orient" that was 
blurriest of all. 

This blurriness was very much part of the common currency of the 
time. Typically, little Rosa, in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins 
(1874) was taken to the harbor to visit a ship named Rajah and she 
gloried in an herb pillow, dress, and trinkets brought back by an 
uncle "from Calcutta" which enabled her to imagine herself an 
"Eastern princess making a royal progress among her subjects." 
(She went aboard the Rajah, however, to visit "China" in the per- 
sons of two "Chinamen" who had just arrived on the ship from 
Hong Kong.) The prominence of the British East India Company 
in the affairs of that part of the world had long since made East 
India or India highly borrowable adjectives. That is how India ink 
got its name, although the black pigment of which it was made 
came from China. When the United States Navy sent a flotilla to 
Asian waters to look after American maritime interests there it 
was given the name, in 1835, of the East India Squadron, although 
most of its activities were along the China coast. 

Actual American trade with India remained minor and official 
American interest in the country minimal. Although consuls were 
appointed in several Indian ports to look after trade and shipping 

2 Gunga Din was, in fact, banned in India when it first appeared. 


matters, at no time during the whole of the nineteenth century was 
it ever part of their function to report on Indian affairs. It has been 
noted that events like the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 or * e Afridi insur- 
rection of 1897 were scarcely even mentioned in American consular 
dispatches. Such matters reached the press via England. But in sharp 
contrast to the lively official American involvement in China from 
1844 onward, these events in India "might just as well have tran- 
spired in the land of Prester John as far as the consuls were con- 
cerned." 3 

Still, we can trace to these fragments of the past, both remote 
and more recent, a whole series of ideas and images of India which 
in varying forms are very much with us, even now: the cluster of 
colorful and vivid notions of a fabulous, mysterious India; the first 
appearance of Indian religious philosophy in New England via 
Europe; the simultaneous movement of evangelical missionaries to 
India which helped produce the still immensely powerful cluster of 
pictures that have to do with the very benighted heathen Hindu; 
the Kiplingesque images of the "lesser breed, 7 ' and the contents of 
the "white man's burden." All these and others feed into the more 
recent associations and impacts of Gandhi, Nehru, and the Indians 
encountered in most recent years by an increasing number of Amer- 
icans. As we sort out the images we found in the minds of 181 such 
Americans, we will often find it necessary to make excursions into 
the history, literature, and experience of the past, in search of ante- 
cedents and illumination. The chronology in time will give a certain 
progressive order to the emergence of these images, but they all co- 
exist in the present. In the gallery that we now enter, they are all 
very much alive. 


THE IDEA of exotic fabulousness attached to India from the distant 
past still has a firm place even in minds where it has to compete 
with the increasingly more varied, more complex, more sobering 

3 Bernard Stern, American Views of India, and Indians, 1 857-1 900, Ph.D. 
thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1956, p. 6. 


knowledge of contemporary India, its problems, and its peoples. 
This idea goes all the way back to the visions of splendor and wealth 
connected with the vague and unsituated "Indies" of the explora- 
tion era and the glamorous mythology of the American clipper-ship 
trade and Europe's empire-building days. Ultimately these notions 
seem to have transferred themselves from the "Indies" to India, 
rather than to China. For it was of India that there were dazzled 
accounts of bejeweled potentates, maharajahs, and princes, marble 
palaces, heaps of treasure, a bizarre and fearful animal world of 
tigers, of elephants decked in gold and silk, of snakes and snake 
charmers, a glitter of wealth and magic and power all alive in some 
distant realm of light and shadow not quite rooted in the real earth. 
These images have been kept in view over time in an unending pro- 
cession of travel tales, talks, and films, pictures of regal scenes, of 
princes draped in gems, a vast literature of cheap adventure in which 
the central role is usually played by some jewel without price, news- 
paper stories and Sunday supplement accounts of princely excesses, 
the unending attraction of the bizarre forever jostling the larger 
reality out of its way. 

Today these are dimming pictures, but they are still quite clear 
and are still evoked by the simple mention of the word "India." 
They might be summoned up apologetically, be deprecated or dis- 
avowed, or more freely attributed to others than to oneself, but in 
one form or another in more than half of the interviews, mention 
was made of 

maharajahs, jewels, wealth, snake charmers, elephants, tigers, tiger 
hunts, cobras, snakes, monkeys, mongooses, pig sticking. . . . 

Far from belonging only to the past, these images are still widely 
and vigorously promoted; they are pictures being flashed on our men- 
tal screens almost constantly, even now. 

They still figure in popular children's books, where the intent is 
almost always wholly sympathetic. 4 They continue to be brought to 
life by every picture of the Taj Mahal, every view of a man in a 
turban (including professional magicians) and continue to provide 
staple fare for titillating or comic entertainment. They are standard 

4 Examples: Christine Western's Bhimsa the Dancing Bear, New York, 1945, 
or J. Kiddell-Monroe's In His Little Black Waistcoat to India, New York, 1948; 
cute and charming, both of them, but neither misses many tricks in the mahara- 
jah-tiger-snake charmer department. 


for films, past and current: e.g., The Rains Came (1939) recently 
remade as The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) which featured a classic 
maharajah, sympathetic version, in his classic and sumptuous white 
palace, or The Bengal Brigade (1954) which features a classic maha- 
rajah, villainous version, in his classic white and sumptuous white 
palace. It is still considered newsworthy to report to the world that 
the Maharajah of Mysore has shot a goo-pound tiger, and no news 
item about the Nizam of Hyderabad can avoid mentioning that he is 
"one of the richest men in the world." The periodic items about 
the late Aga Khan, his bath water and his weight in gold, were 
standard fixtures in the feature columns, although, one must add, 
the Aga Khan was probably identified as vaguely "Oriental" rather 
than as Indian. 

The proliferation via television, radio, and the press is all but be- 
yond measure. My Little Margie (NBC-TV) in one episode features 
a small band of those toothy, turbaned, popeyed, soft-footed emis- 
saries of an Indian prince recovering that jewel again, this time a 
jewel that serves as a talisman for the prince's exercise of power. Or 
Groucho Marx, greeting an Indian girl contestant, asks: "Tell me, 

Carl Rose The New Yorker Magazine Inc. 


Fve always been curious about India. Is it still all snakes, elephants, 
jungles, or sacred cows?" 

Here is the result of some monitoring across a few days of Novem- 
ber and December, 1955, most of the items occurring during the 
Thanksgiving week end: 

People are Funny, NBC-TV, November 12: An Indian student 
at UCLA, costumed like a rajah, delivers a gift of hay and peanuts 
to an astonished Los Angeles housewife. Another foreign student, 
similarly gotten up, delivers a baby elephant. These were presented 
as gifts from "the Maharajah of India/' Asked if she was acquainted 
with the Maharajah, the victim replies, quite seriously, that no, she 
has never met him. 

New York Times, November 23: A North American News- 
paper Alliance item on the movie page begins: "A new Indian movie, 
a great success in the land of rope tricks and fakirs . . ." 

Our Miss Brooks, CBS-TV, November 25: Our Miss Brooks, 
overdosed with a sedative, is transported in a dream to the palace of 
a maharajah in India. She is carried into his presence on a litter by 
four slaves. A hootchie-kootchie girl is doing a dance. A huge de- 
partment-store-type rack laden with dresses, coats, furs, is wheeled 
before her as a gift from the maharajah. Says the maharajah: "I have 
also bought you a town for your town house." Overwhelmed, Miss 
Brooks replies: "And only last week you bought me a country for 
my sausages." The maharajah: "It is nothing, only a matter of 64,- 
ooo rupees." Miss Brooks complains that she has been kept sleepless 
by the serenading of the chief of the harem guard. Harem guard is 
summoned to his doom by a huge turbaned slave striking a gong. 
Guard denies he has been serenading Miss Brooks, explains he has 
been trying to train his snake. He has failed with the snake, he 
moans, but succeeded with his necktie, which is rolled up to his 
neck, curled like a cobra. Dream fades. 

Longines Symphonette, CBS-Radio, November 27: Announcer: 
"We shall now take you to the land of temples and tigers with the 
playing of 'India Caravan 7 . . . ." 

Assignment India, NBC-TV, November 24: A contrasting 
ninety-minute documentary in which Chester Bowles attempts to 
present a serious picture of contemporary India and in doing so feels 
the necessity to put some of these popular images in their proper 


proportions. Thus, among much else, a scene of regal splendor, ele- 
phants, a camel cart, a snake charmer. . . . 

New York Times, November 27: The editorial cartoon of the 
week pictures Nehru sitting on top of a rope flung into the air and 
curlicueing upward to spell out the word "neutrality" with a puzzled 
world looking on. 

Time, December 5: About its New Delhi correspondent: "At 
his New Delhi home sacred cows browse in the flower beds, snake 
charmers with their cobras, fortune-tellers and holy men with beg- 
ging bowls crowd the veranda, push in on him. 'I feel them at my 
shoulder as I work/ says Campbell." 5 

During the last year or so, a new, large, and quite receptive audi- 
ence was created for some of these images by the vogue for ladies' 
fashions on themes borrowed from India. Herewith some examples 
of actual advertisements that could be duplicated from almost any 
daily or Sunday paper: 

Our lovely nylon sari nightgown . . . sleep like a maharanee ... in 
opulent eastern elegance! It's our enchanting sari gown alight with 
golden glitter! 

The oriental look in sari slippers . . . light as air and foam, cushioned 
(like traveling on a magic carpet), sari slippers twinkle at your feet 
with gold coins. . . . Exotic Oriental multicolor print. . . . 

Sari purse . . . exquisite Sari-print of tiny beads on gold cloth is 
opulent-looking. . . . Gold and silver sari scarf provides Oriental glit- 
ter. . . . 

Only at Bergdorf s will you find these dresses . . . fashioned of fabu- 
lously fine fabrics, hand-loomed of silk and cotton for the saris of 

5 These items were selected in the week that I happened to be working on 
this material. The weekend that I happened to return to this section of the 
manuscript to make some revisions, my labors were interrupted by the TV pres- 
entation of Laurence Olivier's "Richard III" (NBC-TV, March 11, 1956). One 
of the General Motors commercials on this occasion had someone ask the an- 
nouncer if he would like to be a king. "I would rather be one of those fabulous 
maharajahs who can get anything he wants by snapping his fingers," he replies, 
and is forthwith transported into a palace scene, complete with silks, slaves, and 
gold. A magician with a series of finger snaps materializes a succession of sumptu- 
ous damsels proffering jars of powder out of which he produces glinting gems. 
The last one, of course, produces a spark plug, which comes from the same rich 
dust and has the same everlasting qualities. 


aristocratic Hindu ladies . . . cloth of gold-yellow with scattering of 
leaves and border embroidered with thread not unlike molten gold. . . . 

The Maharani our fabulous watch glittering with Eastern opulence 
. . . imports from India, bags laden with silvery and golden-rich bul- 
lion . . . Bonwif s introduced these opulent silk stoles. . . . 

Nylon sari lounger, lavished with golden-rich print . . . combines the 
glamor of the mysterious East with the nylon practicality of the West 
. . . captures many splendors of the East . . . jewel-like brilliance . . . 
opulent fabric. . . . Golden-metallic prints of India . . . the glamor, the 
color, the excitement of India! 

It seems likely that before the advertising copywriters get through 
with words like opulent, glittering, exotic, gold, silver, oriental, east- 
ern, fabulous, all the wealth of India will be reduced to the manage- 
able proportions of a $3.98 bargain item at the department store 
counter. But the glint of the remotely imagined reality will just as 
surely shine from new scratches on a great many more minds than 
ever before. In other types of advertising, especially for airlines or 
travel agencies, the stress on the exotic tends to run to the theme 
of mystery and magic, often featuring some treatment of the rope 
trick, the snake charmer, or the magic-carpet notion recast in Indian 
dress. The Indian Government's own travel agency contributes to 
the fine blur. Its window display on Fiftieth Street in New York for 
a long time bade the traveler come to "India, the Land of Pag- 
eantry" and featured the festival-dressed elephant, in that same ever- 
glinting gold. 

By now most moderately well-informed people, including those 
interviewed for this study, are aware that there is a good deal more 
than extravagant opulence in Indian life. They know that the maha- 
rajahs, princes, and all their trappings have been displaced from 
power if not from most of their pelf, that they are passing from the 
scene, and were always, in any case, only one among the myriad 
facts of Indian life. This awareness does not, however, of itself divest 
the image of its strength. Enough survives, both in the reality and 
in the stereotypes rooted in people's minds, to preserve it as one of 
the more persistent images in thinking about India. To the extent 
that they are absorbed into a more realistic appreciation of present- 
day India, these pictures of the princes and nabobs tend to become 
part of the sense that many people have of the immense disparity in 
India between the lushly wealthy few and the poverty-stricken many. 

By themselves, moreover, images of jeweled opulence ordinarily 


find a place In the mind along with the fairy tales; except for those 
suffering from some special psychological misfortune, they have no 
emotional specific gravity. In fact, they generally have no gravity 
at all but float in mental space, occupying a given area but carrying 
virtually no weight. We find images of quite a different order and 
substance in a second major area of associations with India: the 
whole range of things having to do with Indian religion and religious 


IMAGES OF INDIA as a land of religion, of Indians as a people deeply 
and peculiarly concerned with the religious life, are among the most 
commanding of all that appear in the course of this exploration. 
Indeed, the whole notion of the "mysticism of the East," if it is 
located anywhere at all, is more generally attached to India than it 
is, certainly, to China, Japan, or any of the Moslem parts of Asia. 
The subject of religion came up seldom or not at all in connection 
with China. In relation to India, it came up soon and often and 
for many was uppermost and controlling. Whether their knowledge 
or experience of it was extensive or slight, firsthand or second, vague 
or particular, recent or long past, people had strong and decided re- 
actions to it. These derived from an array of factors of background, 
education, intellectual and emotional commitments, and, more elu- 
sively, of particular personality traits. 

In our panel of 181, there were 44 attracted by some aspect of 
Indian religious beliefs and attitudes. Of these a majority coupled 
their admiring and respectful responses with a variety of critical 
comments and reservations, and a much smaller number had un- 
mixed feelings on the subject. For some it was a sense of the quality 
of Indian thought: 

deep, contemplative, tranquil, profound, full of wisdom about life and 
its meaning; Indians are people more philosophical by nature than we 
are, people who think rather grandly. . . . 

A few reacted responsively to their view of 

the mystic quality in Indian religion; a great radiant faith; the capacity 


to depersonalize, to identify with animal life; some Indians are truly 
in love with God, more truly concerned with God; I admire their con- 
tempt for the immediate. . . . 

Others admired 

the devotion of Indians to their religion; Indians are motivated by 
spiritual and religious considerations far more than we are; they really 
respect their temples; they take their religion more seriously; religion 
plays a large part m their lives. . . . 

Or, speaking of particular Indians and sometimes of Indians in gen- 

the high-minded moral content of their behavior; ethical, noble, ideal- 
istic qualities; Indians have a burning desire to be good, they are more 
anxious to be good than we are; the Indian ideal of the irreproachable 
life, disdain for acquisitiveness or cupidity; the desire to do what is 
right regardless of severe consequences. . . . 

For a considerable number all of this bore a single symbol: 
I think of the figure of Gandhi. 

We move here in a highly sensitive area in which most people 
react out of feelings and ideas that lie deep within themselves, 
deeper than it was usually possible to probe. Instead of attempting 
here, by gleaning and inference, to penetrate farther into these indi- 
vidual minds, let us take a brief journey into history, for which a 
visa is so much more easily obtained, and explore some of the cul- 
tural roots or ancestors of some of these reactions, or at least their 
counterparts. For if they are not always discernibly or directly linked 
to a continuous tradition, they are certainly reproductions of intel- 
lectual and emotional postures that can be identified from experi- 
ences of the past, no matter how elusive, slender, or widely separated 
these might be in time and space. 

It is not too widely known that the exchange of ideas, images, and 
experience in the realm of religion and philosophy between America 
and India was a two-way passage which began long ago. The first 
American missionaries went to India to begin preaching evangelical 
Christianity to the Hindus, two pioneers in 1813, and several score 
of them by the i83o's. This enterprise was launched by Americans 
spurred in the first instance by coreligionists in England. It began 


in a time when, first in Europe and soon in America, the inclusive- 
ness, uniqueness, and superiority of Christian faith had come into 
question. In Europe this departure from the old paths took one di- 
rection that led, through scientific naturalism, to Darwin; it took 
another that led, through the minds of the German idealistic 
philosophers, to transcendental mysticism and thence all the way 
back to ... India. Translations and expositions of the main works 
of Indian thought and scripture by Max Miiller and other European 
Orientalists crossed the Atlantic. In this form they became known 
to the ranging, eclectic, unorthodox minds of Ralph Waldo Emer- 
son, Henry Thoreau, and the small band of Concord intellectuals, 
founders of the Transcendentalist movement which so profoundly 
influenced American thought in the middle decades of the nine- 
teenth century. These two groups, the New England missionaries 
and the New England philosophers, are the parents of two quite 
different sets of reactions to Indian religion and religious philosophy. 
For the ancestral counterparts of those who have responded posi- 
tively to Indian religious thought, let us turn first to the similar re- 
sponse evoked more than a century ago in Emerson and his friends. 

The influence of Asia on Emerson, to begin with, has attracted 
scholarly attention only in recent years. In his Main Currents in 
American Thought (1927), Vernon Parrington could devote a whole 
chapter to an acute analysis of Emerson without ever mentioning it. 
On the other hand, Frederic Ives Carpenter is ready to regard Em- 
erson's assimilation of Oriental literature as "perhaps his greatest 
distinction." 6 From the work that has been done on this subject 
by Carpenter and Arthur Christy 7 often a labor of veritable sleuth- 
ing in the realm of ideas it is clear that Emerson was certainly the 
first important American man of ideas to drink from Eastern as well 
as Western founts of wisdom. It is also clear that from all, whether 
Indian, Chinese, Greek, German, French, or English, he took freely 
and eclectically whatever reinforced his own ideas and impulses and 
simply rejected or ignored what did not. In Emerson there was no 
systematic adoption, translation, or reconciliation of these systems of 
ideas, but a highly selective culling, adaptation, and borrowing, some- 
times merely of what he called lustres or illustrations put to his own 
many different uses. 

As a youth, Emerson first encountered India through characteristic 

6 Emerson Handbook, New York, 1953, p. 210. 

7 The Orient in American Transcendentalism, New York, 1932. 


missionary impressions which led him to remark (in 1818) on the 
"immense goddery" and the "cruelty and sensuality" of Hinduism. 
Emerson's later discoveries, however, had nothing whatsoever to do 
with the substance of contemporary Indian life or religion but with 
the ancient texts of India. These came under his eye when he and 
his friends were already reacting both against eighteenth-century ra- 
tionalism and the responding defense of lifeless dogma which of- 
fered so little to parched and questing spirits. In these texts they 
found reinforcement for their own mounting emphases on inner 
spiritual resources, the universality of spirit and truth, agreement and 
identity in all religion. These were books, exulted Emerson, "like rain- 
bows to be thankfully received in their first impression and not exam- 
ined and surveyed by theodolite and chain " Thus Emerson the 

poet and mystic gleaned what he willed from the Hindu cosmic 
Brahma to enrich his idea of the "Oversoul," from Karma, or fate, 
what he called "compensation," from the Hindu Maya, or veil of ig- 
norance, his "illusions. 77 His famous poem, Brahma, recalled by one 
of our present interviewees, was a direct borrowing from the Bhaga- 
vadgita, both in its central theme and in the misty imagery in which 
he delighted to cloak it. 8 There was little for Emerson to respond to 
in Islam, but he wanned to the mystic Sufi poets of Persia. He re- 
sponded to the idea of the "union with the beloved/' which he read 

s The poem: 

If the red slayer thinks he slays, 

Or if the slain think he is slain, 
They know not well the subtle ways 

I keep, and pass, and turn again. 
Far or forgot to me is near; 

Shadow and sunlight are the same; 
The vanished gods to me appear; 

And one to me are shame and fame. 

They reckon ill who leave me out; 

When me they fly, I am the wings; 
I am the doubter and the doubt, 

And I the hymn the Brahmin sings. 

The strong gods pine for my abode, 

And pine in vain the sacred Seven; 
But thou, meek lover of the good! 

Find me, and turn thy back on heaven. 

Carpenter notes what he chooses to see as a somewhat homelier example of 
Emersonian Hinduism in an unexpected place in the words of the preacher in 
John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath: "Maybe it's all men and all women we love; 
maybe that's the Holy Spent the human sperit the whole shebang. Maybe all 
men got one big soul everybody's a part of." 


and understood in his own way, and borrowed from them a style 
which, when he desired, he could make as blurry as a cloud. On 
the other hand, it was the "urbane Emerson," when he was inter- 
ested in "observations on men, not the universe," who drew what 
he chose from Confucius and other Chinese sages. 

Emerson said he wanted none of the metaphysics of these works- 
he had his own but wanted "only the literature of them/ 7 Similarly, 
Thoreau, who absorbed from these sources a sense of their "mystical 
love of nature," made it quite clear that he cared only for the mean- 
ing he chose to read into the poetry under his eye. Neither cared for 
nor sought coherence or a resolution of contradictions in what they 
read, but only for the glints that illuminated their own intuitions. 
Emerson and Thoreau were, then, "mystics," but mystics who were, 
in Carpenter's phrase, "distinctively occidental, protestant, modern." 
They rejected the traditional assumptions that the mystical experi- 
ence was an end in itself and that all other experience was valueless. 
On the contrary, Thoreau foreshadowed the strategy of civil diso- 
bedience adopted so much later by Gandhi (who read Thoreau in 
his South African days). Emerson, far from trying to escape the 
world, sought to become the most penetrating critic of his society 
and in his "stress on the need of action for the true understanding 
of ideas and the instrumental value of ideas for rebuilding the world," 
foreshadowed in his own way the pragmatism of William James and 
the instrumentalism of John Dewey. 9 Emerson's doctrine of personal 
intuition, Carpenter goes on, provided a "halfway house between 
religious dogmatism and the methods of scientific investigation." 
Finding that any religion afraid of science "dishonors God and com- 
mits suicide," Emerson rejected ordinary morality: "To science there 
is no poison, to botany no weed, to chemistry no dirt." Emerson 
reached for the ultimate conception of a disinterested, impersonal 
God, to whom human life and death, good and evil, shame and 
fame, are all one or all nothing. For these themes, so alien to the 
central ideas of the Judaic-Christian tradition, he found some rein- 
forcing sanction in the ancient Indian texts. They form a bridge 
between him and many modern men of science who share similar 
thoughts and among whom also there are not a few readers of the 
Vedic scriptures. 

It remains difficult to identify a specifically Indian thread in the 
multipatterned fabric of Emerson and his friends. Some Hindu writ- 
ers have enthusiastically claimed Emerson as one of their own, but 

9 Carpenter, op. cit, pp. 166 ff. 


the facts seem to be that he and the other Concordians rejected 
or ignored much more than they took from these sources and, in any 
case, absorbed their gleanings into wholes of many different parts. 
Emerson found himself at home among some passages from which 
he freely borrowed, while to others, and to the heart of the philo- 
sophic system, he remained alien, attracted by the Infinite but too 
deeply committed to the Individual ever to travel too far from the 
world of men. But unlike most of their contemporaries and unlike 
a great many important people today, the Transcendentalists did 
not, at any rate, restrict their view of man's world or its intellectual 
treasures to the shores of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. At 
least in the realm of ideas, they pioneered the breaking down of the 
parochialism of American man. When it comes, however, to tracing 
survivals of the Indian influence in their work, the showings become 
wispier than ever. 

In the realm of ideas as such, it simply disappeared. Professor Nor- 
man Brown says that Emerson "contributed Indian ideas to American 
thought but in the successive generations of transmission Americans 
lost sight of the Indian source." 10 Transcendentalism itself, which 
had shown no interest in forming a cult or fellowship to perpetuate 
or practice its beliefs, disappeared with the Transcendentalists. Their 
influence, however, did brush onto many others in many different 
ways, and sometimes their borrowings from Asia figured directly or 
indirectly in these encounters. One of Walt Whitman's biographers 
says that it was Henry Thoreau who led the poet to dip into Oriental 
literature. One visible effect turned up years later in the poem Whit- 
man wrote to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal, a song he 
sang to celebrate the meeting of East and West. 11 It has also been 

10 Brown, op. cit, p. 264. 

11 An excerpt: 

Passage O soul to India 

Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables . . . 

The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos'd dreams, 

The deep-diving bibles and legends, 

The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions; 

O you temples fairer than lilies pour'd over by the rising sun! 

O you fables spurning the known, eluding the hold of the 

known, mounting to heaven! 
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnished 

with gold! 

Towers of fables immortal fashioned from mortal dreams I 
You too I welcome and fully the same as the rest! 
You too with joy I sing! 


said, for another example, that Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Chris- 
tian Science, developed at least an acquaintance with some Indian 
texts and ideas, either from her contact with Bronson Alcott or from 
other Transcendentalists. Some quotations from Hindu sources ap- 
peared in the first editions of her work Science and Health, but these 
subsequently disappeared and do not figure in the texts used by the 
Christian Science Church today. 12 

In Hindu literature, especially in the Bhagavadgita, the Emer- 
sonians had found a measure of flexibility which enabled them to 
choose freely among many alternative interpretations. They appear 
to have seen Buddhism as a somewhat "chillier" doctrine more sin- 
gle-mindedly committed to the negation of life. But somewhat later 
more became known of Buddhism. Its distinction from Hinduism 
was more clearly seen and its real or alleged similarities to Chris- 
tianity noticed, discussed, and argued. In time, Buddhism, rather 
than Hinduism, became the focus of interest and controversy far 
wider than any ever provoked on this subject by the Concordians. 
It was one of the Concord group, however, Bronson Alcott, who 
contributed to this popularization of the issues by promoting the 
American publication of Sir Edwin Arnold's famous poetical narra- 
tive of the life of Gautama Buddha, The Light of Asia. This work, 
published in England in 1879, appeared in the United States the 
next year. 13 

By this time, the searching of souls, the redefinition of religious 
values, the re-examination of the idea of a single revealed truth 
through Christianity had spread to much wider circles. The ap- 
pearance of Max Miiller's essays on comparative religion and of 
James Freeman Clarke's Ten Great Religions (in 1871) had already 
done a great deal to spread the discussion to broader segments of 
the more literate publics on both sides of the Atlantic. Arnold's 
long poem, colorful, vivid, dramatic, learned, was high in the literary 
style of the period. It helped carry the whole matter widely beyond 
the precincts of scholarly discussion to the pulpits and the public 
prints. Its particular appeal and the arguments over its implications 
for Christians gave this book a stunning popular success. During 

12 Cf. Wendell Thomas, Hinduism Invades America, New York, 1930, pp. 
229-31. I am indebted for a careful check of this fact to Robert Peel, Committee 
on Publication, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, Massachusetts. 

13 A detailed discussion of this work and its historical and intellectual setting 
will be found in Brooks Wright, Sir Edwin Arnold, a Literary Biography, Ph.D. 
thesis, Harvard, 1950, Part III. 


the next twenty years, The Light of Asia went through eighty-three 
countable American editions, regular and pirated, representing. 
Brooks Wright estimates, somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 
copies. By the end of the century, a good deal less diligence was go- 
ing into soul-searching. The changing spirit of the times sapped the 
issues of their relevance and stripped Arnold's poem of its popular 
appeal. It remained a matter of interest thereafter for much smaller 
numbers of interested persons and for the tiny groups which formed 
themselves at the fringes of the controversy to embrace theosophy 
or other like cults. We learn from Wright that it was made into 
a cantata and opera in Europe in 1891, into a play produced in Cali- 
fornia in 1919 and repeated on Broadway for twenty-three perform- 
ances by Walter Hampden as late as 1928, and into a moving picture 
made by a German company in India that year, which had one 
private showing in the United States, in Boston, a year later. The 
poem has remained in print, 14 but its fame and the renown of its 
author, so great and wide in their day, have in this time almost 
completely evaporated. It may or may not be a salient comment on 
The Light of Asia's durability to report that among the 181 people 
interviewed for this study it was mentioned by only one. 

Religious preoccupations aside, intellectual interests relating to 
India remained extremely limited through this entire time. The 
American Oriental Society, founded at Boston in 1843, was the con- 
tinuing center for the work of a tiny, though often highly distin- 
guished group of scholars whose fields lay in the antiquities, the 
languages, the philology, and philosophy of the ancients. In other 
fields there was no interest at all. Bernard Stern reports that between 
1846 and 1900 the file of Smithsonian monographs included not a 
single title relating to India. In the volumes of the American His- 
torical Review between 1895 and 1900, there were no articles on 
India and only two book reviews. 15 

Out of the religious controversies, however, our own century in- 
herited a number of small cults of devotees to various versions of 
Hinduism and Buddhism. One of the first of these movements was 
the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Mrs. Helen Blavatsky 

14 It appears in its entirety in Lin Yutang's Modern Library compilation, 
The Wisdom of China and India, New York, 1942. A paperback edition, pub- 
lished in the United States in 1949, has appeared on American bookstalls under 
the imprint of the Jaico Publishing Company of Bombay and Calcutta. 

15 Stem, op. cit, pp. 13, 14. 


and Henry Olcott, a group which not long afterward transferred its 
activities to India, where it later came under the leadership of Mrs. 
Annie Besant. Another more direct and more persistent Hindu 
countermissionary effort began with the visit of the Hindu leader 
Swami Vivelcenanda to the Parliament of Religions held at the 
Exposition in Chicago in 1893. An obscure and rather turgidly con- 
troversial literature exists about this visit and the claims made for 
it. Vivelcenanda made a colorful impression on some people at Chi- 
cago and lectured elsewhere in the country to small and avid audi- 
ences. After his return to India, his conquests were somewhat 
extravagantly described. He was quoted as saying that his doctrines 
were well on the way to winning a majority of English-speaking 
people, indeed, were "flooding the world." This provoked angry 
rebuttals by American churchmen. Various American dignitaries 
called Vivekenanda's claims "preposterous . . . simply silly." The re- 
criminations passed into an exchange of compliments about the 
contending religions themselves. The swami was quoted as saying 
that Christianity was but a "patchy imitation ... a collection of 
little bits from the Indian mind." Americans called Hindu India 
"the most stupendous fortress and citadel of ancient error and 
idolatry now in the world," and charged that Hinduism "benumbs 
the religious faculty, deadens the conscience. . . ." 16 Hinduism did 
not quite conquer America, but the Vedanta Society, founded here 
by Vivekenanda at the time, has survived and maintains small groups 
and publications in a few large American cities. 

Vivekenanda was followed to the United States by other touring 
swamis, not all of whom confined their efforts to the upper planes 
of spirituality. This was a migration of Indians, said an Indian 
writer in 1910, "who went in for the trade of spiritualists, clairvoy- 
ants, mind readers, professors of psychic knowledge, astrologers, and 
palmists." 17 Such individuals became somewhat more familiar fix- 
tures in parts of the American scene, finding a place among the 
cultists of southern California, in some big cities, in side shows 
and carnivals, where sometimes it was not necessary to be an Indian 
but simply to have a turban, a robe, and a facile mind, to play the 

16 Cf. Swarm Vivekenanda and his Guru: With Letters from Prominent 
Americans on the alleged progress of Vedantism in the United States, Christian 
Literature Society for India, London and Madras, 1897. 

17 Quoted by E. R. Schmidt, American Relations with South Asia, 1900 
1940, Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1955, p. 277. 


necessary role. These antics have made most thoughtful Indians 
wince, but the success stories of these individuals, filtering through 
the gauze of great distance and ignorance, are said to have added to 
the notion in India that Hinduism enjoyed a considerable success 
in America. If this is true, it becomes another of the many cruel 
little paradoxes of this history: what some Indians were seeing as 
evidence of India's spiritual conquest of America was in reality the 
stuff of a stereotype, still strongly held by many today, of Indian 
fakirs as fakers, as phony mystics, charlatans parading as swamis 
preying on the gullible, counting their victims mainly among "hyper- 
susceptible women" or, in another writer's phrase, among "the dis- 
consolate and the mentally unemployed." 

Such, virtually in the sum, were the bits and pieces of Indian 
religious or ideological influence brought to bear on Americans by 
Indians directly or by Indian thought via translated texts from the 
earliest contacts until the advent and impact of Gandhi and 
Gandhism in the last thirty years. In its more serious aspects, this 
influence in the form of any direct heritage from the past was all 
but invisible in the minds of the members of our present panel of 
interviewees. The relatively small number who reacted positively to 
Indian religious ideas did so not because they had learned about it 
through Emerson or Arnold but because, in varying degrees, they 
reacted in the same way or at least in the same spirit to the same 
stimuli. Such individuals were relatively quite rare, and much less 
common than those with strong impressions of the phony cultists 
and swamis, so many of whom are still with us and some of whom 
produce reactions of quite a different order. Here we begin to ap- 
proach the edges of a quite different source of ideas about India and 
its religions: the American missionaries who tried through all these 
same many decades to bring the Christian Gospel to India and 
whose impressions were communicated constantly and over a long 
period of time to the parishioners at home on whom they depended 
for support. The picture they communicated in the main was not of 
the high-minded and spiritual Indian philosopher; it was a picture 
of the very benighted heathen Hindu. 



THE IMAGE of the very benighted heathen Hindu is perhaps the 
strongest of all that come to us out of India from the past and it 
retains its full sharpness up to the present day. It appeared, vivid, 
clear, and particularized, in the minds of a large majority of our 
interviewees, 137 out of 181. It was evoked from distant memory or 
from the last week's issue of Time, from pictures and captions in the 
National Geographic, the Ripley cartoons or the Sunday supplements 
of years ago or of yesterday, out of remembered things that people 
somewhere said or wrote, or the sharp recall of things and people 
seen or pictured in India itself. 18 

It could be visual: 

sacred cows roaming the streets; mobs of religious fanatics hurling 
themselves into the Ganges; naked ascetics, scrawny fakirs on nails; 
the multiarmed goddess; the burning ghats; the skull-laden figure of 
Kali; Benares; obscene Hindu sculpture, phallic symbols and erotic 
carvings on the temples. . . . 

It could be a judgment: 

a debased, hopeless sort of religion; a complicated, alien mess; mystic 
nonsense; stupid taboos; horrible practices in a clutter of cultural dead 
weights; a benighted, superstitious, fatalistic philosophy; fanatical, bar- 
barous religiosity; the elevation of animal life above tie human. . . . 

It could be a social commentary: 

caste system; untouchability; child marriage, purdah, suttee; religion 
as a dragging burden on growth and development; terrific waste from 
the animal cult, cows and monkeys sacrosanct amid starvation; oppres- 
sion of ignorance, of religious and caste prejudice; a ridiculous ideali- 
zation of poverty; religion as a sanction for barriers between people, 

18 Robert Ripley, creator of Believe It or Not, visited India to offer $100 to 
$500 for oddities delivered and accepted for display at the Century of Progress 
Exposition in Chicago of 1933-34. He asked particularly for "the Old Horned 
Man of Tibet, Fire Worshippers, a troop of fire walkers, ascetics and fakirs, men 
who hold up their amis, sit on beds of nails, gaze at the sun, hang upside down, 
etc." Quoted from a consular report, by Schmidt, op. cit., p. 256. All of these 
and many others figured prominently in the famous Ripley cartoons seen daily 
by millions. 


between dean and unclean, making for crippling social differences and 
divisions. . . . 

In the panel as a whole, there is probably no single set of views 
more widely or commonly held than these reactions to popular 
Hinduism. They can be and are shared by the atheist, the agnostic, 
and the believer, by the rationalist who rejects mysticism and 
religiosity wherever he finds it, and by the committed believer who 
finds in Indian beliefs and customs features that outrage his own. 
In differing measures this reaction appears in the pragmatist and in 
the practitioner of (his own) common sense, in the idealist who 
might value the lofty abstraction more highly than the earthier real- 
ity, in the seeker, alienated from his own culture or religion, who 
finds virtue in another without being quite willing to accept its 
grosser forms, in the humanist who believes that man's emancipation 
lies only within himself. This takes in nearly everybody, undoubtedly 
including a great many of the Indian counterparts of these Ameri- 
cans or Western types. The best-known of these would be Jawaharlal 
Nehru himself, who has written: 

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized reli- 
gion, in India and elsewhere fills me with horror, and I have frequently 
condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it 
seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, super- 
stition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests. . . . 
Organized religion, whatever its past may have been, today is very largely 
an empty form devoid of real content. . . . And even where something of 
value still remains, it is enveloped by other and harmful contents. This 
seems to have happened in our Eastern religions as well as the Western. 10 

There are a few people who consistently believe that all roads lead 
to God and who therefore withhold or temper judgment on human 
foibles different from their own. There are a few who believe that no 
road leads to God, and that therefore one set of foibles is as good, 
or as bad, as another. These aside, it seems fair to guess that only 
the practitioners of a given set of religious practices fully approve or 
admire what they believe and what they do. No practicing Hindu 
was included in the present panel, and even if any were, the showing 
would depend on what kind of Hindu, for there are almost as many 
different kinds of Hindu as there are, say, kinds of Protestants. A 
given Indian's attitude toward these aspects of Hinduism, moreover, 

19 Toward Freedom, New York, 1942, p. 240-41. 


may be one thing, and his reaction to Western criticism of them 
quite another, as the example of Nehru amply indicates. 

The religious ideas and practices to which these reactions are ad- 
dressed are the features of Indian culture which seem to be the 
most different from our own, so different, often, that the normal 
culture-bound reaction to a difference-in-kind is more than usually 
sharp. Of course even in the case of popular Hinduism this inevi- 
tably involves a certain cultural myopia. The American whose com- 
mon sense is outraged by Indian superstitions may be far from out- 
raged by the superstitions which persist in his own society. He may 
find some Hindu rites strange beyond acceptance, even though he 
may find nothing odd (much less laughable or ridiculous) in his own 
not uncommon piety toward the mystic, mysterious, or simply garish 
rites and trimmings of some of our secret or public fellowships and 
societies or of some of our religions. It does not require extraordinary 
detachment to discover irony in some Americans 7 criticisms of the 
marriage customs in other cultures, of religious or caste prejudices, or 
of religion as a sanction for barriers making for conflict between peo- 
ple; or in a Christian's scorn for a "ridiculous idealization of poverty," 
for the rite of baptism as practiced on the Ganges shore, or for the 
concept or practice of unquestioning faith, resignation, renunciation, 
self-denial, and even asceticism. It may indeed be precisely the in- 
trusive sense of these parallels, of values somehow deformed, that 
accounts for some of the violence of the reaction. 

These reactions to popular Hinduism nevertheless do have a wide 
currency. They are rooted in deep cultural beds. They recur in all 
kinds of people and reappear in generation after generation. The 
Americans with whom we deal here faithfully and strikingly repro- 
duce the responses common among the Americans who began to go 
to India nearly a century and a half ago, taking with them all their 
strongly fixed cultural and religious convictions and bent on persuad- 
ing Indians to accept these convictions in place of their own. A 
comparison of our current collection of reactions on this subject 
and the record written by others in the past shows quite arrestingly 
how an entire complex of attitudes and feelings occurs in like groups 
of people widely separated in time and circumstance. 

This body of views is almost unanimously negative in spirit in 
both past and present. But a few counterparts of a different sort do 
also emerge. One study quotes, for example, the remarks of a former 
Chicago mayor named Carter H. Harrison who toured India in the 


1880'$. Hinduism seemed to him "a slavish faith, blind and super- 
stitious/' but, on the other hand, 

it started before history, in the mysterious and fantastic realm of the 
past, it was eternal and fascinating. Who can say my way is right and 
yours is wrong? One thing we can determine that charity to the 
opinion of others and kindness and goodwill are included in the teach- 
ings of all religions which acknowledge a supreme ruler. 

Here, for comparison, are the remarks of a businessman in our panel: 

I was opposed to any attempt to Christianize Hindus. I was happy 
if they stayed good Hindus. There must be something in a religion 
that gets people to worship as they do. ... I remained a good Baptist 
through all this and did not attempt to reconcile all these things. 
Whether a man is Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, if he's a good one, that's 
all right with me. I get something out of my religion; they get some- 
thing out of theirs. 

These are unusual examples, and it is not accidental that one comes 
from a politician and the other a businessman. The record made by 
American missionaries in India in their letters, books, sermons, and 
lectures, from the beginning down almost to our own time, is in 
large part dominated by a powerful sense of revulsion at Hindu prac- 
tices. A mild example would be the complaint, in 1852, about "the 
deplorable ignorance and stubborn prejudices of the Hindus, together 
with the caste system, their entire absence of all correct principles, 
and finally their moral degradation." The Hindus, one might more 
commonly have heard, were "lifetime liars and worshippers of a 
stupendous system of carnal idolatry." Their temples would be 
"ornamented with all the orders of infernal architecture, displaying 
all the sins in the human figure and exhibiting evil spirits under the 
significant emblems of serpents, toads, etc." Letters prepared for 
Sunday school children stressed "mountains of superstitions," "the 
heathens in darkness," and "the Hindu mind." The whole literature 
was filled, Bernard Stern remarks, "with a positively morbid preoccu- 
pation with temple prostitutes and lingamites," with lurid illustra- 
tions, and in general with material more titillating than inspirational. 
Indian religions, said a writer in the Christian Century in 1905, were 
"debauched with deeds of lust and blood. . . . Many of the Indian 
deities, given to lustful amours, are especially worshipped by the peo- 
ple. ... It is not surprising that religion in India is not only divorced 
from morality but married to vice . . . much indecency exists in India 


under the guise of religion, many of the temple dancing girls are 
merely consecrated prostitutes, and in many cases respectable women 
are led to lives of shame/' 20 

The continuing missionary stress on this image of the horror and 
evil and sexuality in Indian life and religion was rarely challenged 
until well after the turn of the century. In 1907, a YMCA report 
suggested that "the idea of Christian superiority and consequent 
degradation of everything that was 'heathen' was having a detri- 
mental effect on missionary work." Missionaries were urged to avoid 
these disparaging contrasts, "however true in themselves/' Church- 
men were, feeling the impact of the "higher criticism'* of the time, 
of increasing pressure for a less evangelical approach and greater 
stress on good works, and most of all, of the dawning awareness 
of political and economic problems of the Indian people. Certain 
shifts began to occur in missionary emphasis, at least in some quar- 
ters and for some individuals. There were notable persons, Robert 
Hume, Jabez Sunderland, Bishop Frederick Fisher, Eli Stanley Jones, 
who sought common grounds with Indians on the basis of a more 
sympathetic grasp of Indian feelings and problems. But Robert Hume 
came into conflict with most of his fellows for developing an early 
sympathy for burgeoning Indian nationalism, a sympathy which the 
majority of missionaries hardly shared. Bishop Fisher had to resign 
his bishopric to fight for his belief in the more rapid Indianization 
of the church in India. Eli Stanley Jones had to part company with 
many of his coreligionists to maintain that the Sermon on the Mount 
gave him sanction for sympathy with non-Christian religion. His 
ashrams made most Christian missionaries acutely uncomfortable. 
For a committed religionist to yield the principle of the exclusiveness 
or at least the superiority of his particular truth is to yield a great 
deal and to gain in return much painful confusion, a state of affairs 
not unfamiliar in some of the history of Protestantism. 21 

20 Quotations from various missionary sources are from Stern, op. cit. t Chap- 
ter VI. See also his extensive bibliography; Schmidt, op. cit.; and from Robert I. 
Crane, "The Development of the American View of India, as Seen in Certain 
Religious Periodicals Published in the United States, 1897-1931," MA thesis, 
American University, Washington, D.C., 1943. 

21 This situation among the Protestants brought a sharp though unwittingly 
ironic jibe from a writer in Catholic World in 1924: "Hinduism like Protestant- 
ism doesn't know its own mind, it knows neither what it is nor where it stands. 
. . . Like the Protestant, the Hindu can give no positive definition of his religion, 
he does not know what to believe and what not to believe. Moreover, the Indian 
is proud of his culture and does not want to admit that any part of it could be at 


Soon it became necessary, at least for some, to ask the odd ques- 
tion: Was the heathen vile or not? Bishop Heber had written back 
in 1819 and numberless churchgoing generations had since sung the 
famous lines about the call that had come "from Greenland's icy 
mountains, from India's coral strand" to "deliver their land from 
error's chain." And the second verse said: 

What though the spicy breezes 

Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle; 
Though every prospect pleases, 

And only man is vile: 
In vain with lavish kindness 

The gifts of God are strown; 
The heathen in his blindness 

Bows down to wood and stone. 

Editors of some hymn books now looked twice at these lines and 
began to wonder about their appropriateness. The heathen in his 
blindness was still bowing down to wood and stone in the 1916 
edition of the Episcopal New Hymnal, but he ceased doing so in the 
revised edition issued in 1940. The offending lines disappeared from 
the 1912 edition of the Congregational Pilgrim Hymnal, reappeared 
in 1931, and in a forthcoming new edition will disappear again, along 
with the whole hymn, regarded by the present committee of editors 
as reflecting an "old-fashioned" concept of the church's mission. 22 
To be sure the matter could not be settled in the hymnbooks. It 
seemed to remain, for individual missionaries, a function of age and 

Generally speaking, one is told in missionary circles, the older 
the missionary the viler the heathen. But some of the elders and 
most of the more youthful carriers of the Word are now much 
less sure or hold distinctly different views. In the vastly changed 
times of the present, they have trouble defining their missions, often 
to themselves. All the certainties of their fathers, the rectitude and 

fault, therefore he will not renounce his religion. Then, too, the Indian is be- 
wildered by the babble of Christian sects in India. Each one claims to be right 
and it is obvious that all can't be. This is the great obstacle to Catholicism in 
India/' Quoted by Crane, op. cit, t pp. 108-09. 

22 An examination of hymnals, undertaken at our suggestion by John D. 
Raciappa, a student at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of Cambridge, Massa- 
chusetts, disclosed the interesting fact that "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" 
appears in its entirety in fifteen hymnals still currently in use, appears with the 
offending verse omitted in seven hymnals, and does not appear at all in nine. 


self-assurance doctrinal, personal, or political have largely disap- 
peared, casualties of the collapse of Western superiority that accom- 
panied the collapse of Western power. Missionaries who continue to 
work in India, if many do, will transmit to their constituents at home 
images of India and Indians, it seems sure, quite different from those 
of the past. 

But the past remains unerased and its cost still unpaid. We have 
still to ask how much of the missionary imprint of these years was 
actually found on the minds of the Americans tapped for this study. 
The only answer we can make to this question has to be based on 
limited though clear evidence: the amount and kind of missionary- 
linked memories brought to the surface in the course of the inter- 
views themselves. 

American missionary enterprise in Asia reached its peaks during 
the childhood or young years of most of the present group of inter- 
viewees. The larger and certainly the more widely known part of this 
enterprise lay in China, but the mission establishment in India was 
not much smaller. The number of American missionaries there rose 
from 394 in 1892 steeply to 1,025 in 1903 and on up to its peak of 
2,478 in 1922. 23 Of the total estimated American investment in India 
of $50,500,000 in the 1930'$, $22,858,000 lay in mission and religious 
institutions, schools, hospitals, and churches. 24 This money had 
come, dollar by dollar, penny by penny, from the folks at home. 
To raise it, mission societies, councils, committees, and traveling 
missionary envoys carried on an unremitting program of education 
and appeal in all the churches open to them. It would be in this 
setting that young Americans would hear, often for the first time, 
something about India, its peoples, its religions, of the needs they 
had to help meet, of the work to which it became their duty to 
contribute. When they were asked what they could remember from 
years past that was linked in any way to Asia, a certain number of 
our panelists almost instantly uncovered the scratches left on their 
minds on those Sunday mornings long ago. They showed up small, 
but by no means invisible. 

We have already mentioned the fact that of our total of 181, 137 
indicated that they had been repelled in some degree by Hindu 

23 Figures supplied b> R. Pierce Beaver, Missionary Research Library, New 

** Schmidt, op. cit. f from government sources, p. 393. 


religious ideas, practices, customs. This number was larger than the 
total put together of all who remembered missionaries in any connec- 
tion whatever. It includes, of course, a certain number who because 
of their own particular religious backgrounds would have had little 
contact or none at all with missionaries or mission work. An uncer- 
tain discount must no doubt also be made for those who may simply 
have forgotten, who may have so ardently wished themselves else- 
where on those dim Sundays that they never heard or registered the 
things that were said. Whatever the size of this allowance, it would 
still seem clear that much the larger number of those repelled by 
Hindu religiosity did not receive their impressions from missionaries, 
at least not directly. Other sources were ample, in print or picture, 
person, or personal experience. It seems reasonable to write down the 
majority of them as Americans reacting with the same general cul- 
tural and emotional dispositions to the same things in the same way 
as their predecessors and counterparts did in the past. 

At the same time, in our remaining cases there is some plain evi- 
dence of continuity and connection. There were altogether 123 in- 
dividuals who mentioned missionaries or talk about the mission 
world among their early associations with Asia. Of these only 48 
specifically linked this missionary recall to India. Of these 48, 23 
remembered simply that the matter had to do with India and no 
more than that; they attached no quality to their remembered im- 
pressions. In the last group of 25, the recall from the past had all 
sorts of phrases and feelings trailing after it. It is here that we catch 
a glimpse of the way in which some missionary attitudes were trans- 
mitted with sufficient vigor to create impressions that could survive 
a lifetime of other preoccupations and could be touched to life by a 
single question. 

Four of these recollections were neuter, or almost neuter, in feel- 
ing-tone. One remembered hearing of the Indians simply as "a 
people in great need of help"; another the mention of "great poverty, 
human misery, suffering." Another called up a reference to "Gandhi" 
and the "tremendous hunger of a great mass of people." The last 
recalled simply an impression about "heat." 

Four others and only four remembered positive, friendly, 01 
admiring remarks by missionaries. The Indians, one recalled hearing, 
were "poor, needy, good, simple, hardworking, worthy people," an- 
other that they were "fine deserving people." A third had gathered 
a feeling of "appreciation of Indian culture." The last remembered 


a missionary who had told him that Indians "didn't wear shoes/' 
that the country was "hot, wet, and dry/ 7 and that he "liked India." 
Seventeen, by contrast, brought up from their churchgoing mem- 
ories images that were largely bizarre or terrible, horrifying or evil, 
or at least unbelievably odd: 

talk of poverty linked to filth, dirt, disease, superstition; a people 
oppressed by a backward religion; the evil caste system and the un- 
touchables; different, not good in the Christian way; idol-worshippers, 
snake charmers, leprosy, child marriage, darkness, ignorance; turbans, 
a bed of spikes; mystics, can throw a rope up and climb it, ride ele- 
phants, tigers invade villages every other night and run off with people; 
snakes, forests, wild animals, woke up one night to find a cobra on his 
bed; benighted mystics, famine, poverty, wealth; India more heathen 
than China. . . . 

To recapitulate in more tabular form: 

Total number of interviewees 181 

With negative attitudes on Indian religion, customs . 137 

Total with some measure of missionary recall ... 123 

With missionary recall pertaining specifically to India . 48 

Missionary recall without descriptive phrases .... 23 

Missionary recall with negative images of India ... 17 

Missionary recall with positive images of India ... 4 

Missionary recall with neuter images of India ... 4 

It does not seem impossible to suggest that in the proportion of 
48 to 123 we get a rough approximation of the amount of missionary 
communication about India to reach churchgoers in the generation 
just past; and that in the proportions of 4 neuter to 4 positive to 
17 negative, we get a glimpse of the kind of communication that 
passed along these channels and, for better or worse, left its mark. 
These figures are of course wholly inconclusive; but their essence is 

There have been many sources other than the missionaries for 
American impressions of the benighted heathen Hindu. In the sec- 
ond half of the nineteenth century, long before all but the oldest 
of our panelists were born, there was a large and popular literature 
of travel accounts, novels, and diaries touching India. 25 In a chapter 
reviewing this literature in detail, Bernard Stern finds that with rare 
exceptions, their "observations identically paralleled those expressed 

25 E.g., Mark Twain, Following the Equator, Hartford, 1897, pp. 345-609. 


in missionaries' works." The earliest known American film about 
India was a Thomas A. Edison documentary reel called Hindoo 
Fakir, first shown in 1902* The literature of the time reproduces all 
the types and outlooks we know much more familiarly from more 
recent times, from the distinguished public servant like William 
Seward-who concluded after a visit in 1871 that until India grasped 
the belief in Christianity's one God, it would remain "incapable of 
a firm advance in knowledge and civilization"-to two earnest ladies 
who visited India in 1890-91 and compiled a widely noted report on 
"organized vice and trafficking in women" in India. This last was 
almost a direct antecedent of a similar work that appeared some 
thirty years later and is familiar to many members of our present 
panel: the once famous or infamous Mother India, by Katherine 


Mother India appeared in 1927, the product of a six-months stay 
in the country. It was a scalding and horrified recital of examples of 
child marriage, extreme caste practices, the plight of the untouch- 
ables, backward conditions of health and sanitation. Written on a 
single plane of total revulsion and narrowly focused bias, it had no 
room for qualifications, for examples of other aspects of Indian life, 
or indeed, for any other side of the story whatsoever. The most 
salient point made by the book's more thoughtful Indian and 
Western critics was that while it did not lie in its main particulars, 
it lied monumentally as a whole. It made or allowed the reader to 
make the most sweeping generalizations from its selection of ex- 
amples. Any reader of the book was justified in coming away from 
it, for example, with the notion that every female in India above 
the age of five was the enslaved and brutally maltreated victim of 
the male population which consisted in its entirety of active, frus- 
trated, or exhausted sex maniacs. This is what led Gandhi to call it a 
"drainpipe study/' although he advised Indian readers of the book 
to take some of its facts seriously into account. Katherine Mayo 
wrote out of an unrestrained Anglophilism; the only decent people 
she encountered in India were the British and those few Indians 
she met who had been made over in the British image; the only 
decency she discovered was British in origin, inspiration, and prac- 
tice. She also appropriated a number of the cruder British attitudes: 
she loved the princes, admired the Muslims, especially those hardy 

26 Dorothy B. Jones, op. cit., p. 51. 


fighting men of the Northwest Frontier, and utterly despised the 
Hindus; and she made absolutely no bones about any of this at all. 

Katherine Mayo died in 1940, so it has been impossible to seek 
from her directly any clues to the sources either of her Anglophilism 
or her Hinduphobia. She is described as having grown up with the 
"anti-British" notions associated with life in the shadow of Bunker 
Hill. Her view of England was radically changed by a visit there 
during the First World War, when she acquired a permanent admira- 
tion for the virtues of British society, especially at its upper levels. 
She was obviously a woman of great restless energy, a spinster with 
a penchant for riding her prejudices into battle wherever it con- 
veniently offered. Her earlier career was marked by controversies over 
writing she had done on such varied subjects as state police systems, 
the YMCA's role in France in wartime, the political reforms of the 
Wilson administration in the Philippines and the role of the Catho- 
lic Church there. The trip to India was more or less accidental, and 
neither she nor her lifelong companion, Miss Moyca Newell, had 
any previous notions about the country, unless you count the fact 
that they had been sorely irked by the anti-British statements of 
various Indian lecturers in the United States in the early 1920'$. 
Miss Mayo went to India to look into conditions for herself, and 
in what obviously struck her as fetid sexuality on a vast scale, she 
found her most congenial and successful subject. 

Mother India became a sensation in the United States, in Great 
Britain, and in India. It became the center of a storm that raged for 
half a dozen years, in the newspapers, the periodical press, and on 
the lecture platforms in all three countries. It provoked some ten 
books in reply by Indian authors who tried, with varying success, to 
turn Mayors technique on the United States, focusing exclusively 
on some of the more grisly features of American life. In self-defense, 
Miss Mayo went through the nine volumes of testimony taken by 
a commission of inquiry into child marriage which sat in India 
following the furore raised by her book. In 1931 she published an- 
other book, simply called Volume Two, devoted mainly to excerpts 
of testimony by Indians saying, in their way, many of the same things 
she had been so bitterly attacked for saying in her way. She simply 
could not understand the difference. 

The controversy created an embarrassing dilemma for many Amer- 
ican missionaries associated with work in India. Some leading church 
figures instantly denounced the book as a libel. In fact, a great many 


missionaries found to their great discomfort that the book simply 
said what they had been saying for years and presented what they 
believed to be an essentially factual picture of Indian life. The 
Mayo issue was made peculiarly painful for missionaries because for 
many Indians, Mayo's India was indistinguishable from the mission- 
ary's India and the Englishman's India. As one writer shrewdly com- 
ments: "Had it appeared before 1900 a large body of missionaries 
would have approved of Miss Mayo's book." 27 The editor of the 
Indian Social Reformer saw the Mayo book as "nothing more than 
a reflection of the state of the Western mind with regard to India. 
The Western mind has scarcely ever viewed India in the light of 
truth and reason. . . . The myth about India being the place of 
untold treasure has been exploded. The current one is that India is 
the land of strange mysteries, contrasts, peoples, and civilizations. 
This myth can be blamed on the missionaries and the British." 28 
Attackers and defenders of Mother India continued to throw hard- 
ened missiles of ill-digested and regurgitated charges and counter- 
charges at each other in a melee that lasted for years, generating 
ill feeling that has long survived the book itself or the arguments 
about it. Mother India was gradually forgotten everywhere but in 
India, where its name became and remains a shorthand epithet for 
whatever Indians regard as Western slander and dishonesty about 
Indian life, a symbol, as an Indian colleague describes it, for "what 
they think of us." 29 

In the course of all this history, Mother India went through 27 
editions in the United States for a total of 256,697 copies, 30 by far 
the most widely sold book about India in our century. The wordage 
in press and pulpit on Mother India must have been immense, and 
its word-of-mouth fame, if sparked only by its more titillating pas- 

27 Schmidt, op. cit., p. 265. 

28 May 11, 1929, quoted by Schmidt, ibid., p. 262. 

_ 29 Just how painful the Mayo episode was for missionaries with the "newer" 
orientation was indicated by the discovery that a study of missionary writings 
covering that period simply omitted all mention of the Mayo controversy. I wrote 
to the author asking him why this was so. His reply: "I cannot say that I recall 
the circumstances surrounding my omission of comment on the Mayo incident 
I was skimming very quickly over the 'typical' articles with the 'older orientation* 
and was concentrating my attention ... on the articles that indicated a different 
kind of interest in India. It is possible that I had an unconscious block on Mayo 
and therefore didn't 'see' mention of her. As you know, India-wallas snarled at 
the mention of the Mayo name and I was no exception. Thus it is possible that 
I didn t see the articles or that I refused to 'dignify' them with mention " 
30 Figures from Miss Moyca Newell and Harcourt, Brace & Co., publishers 


sages, must have carried far indeed. All this occurred twenty-five to 
thirty years ago, when most of our present interviewees were between 
the ages of fifteen and thirty. For whatever it may be worth as a 
comment on the transit of glory, our showing is that 46 of our 181 
interviewees, or roughly one-fourth, mentioned Mother India. Their 
recall of it ranged from the dim to the precise. Some remembered 
only the name: they had heard of it but did not know exactly what 
it was. One of these individuals who felt he had to guess, guessed 
that it was some sympathetic portrayal or other of India what else 
was one to think of a book with the word "mother" in the title? Oth- 
ers knew it had been a highly controversial book but were not sure 
what the controversy had been about. A larger number automatically 
associated Mother India with child marriage or with a generally 
critical attitude about Indian customs. Among these there began to 
appear a few who suggested that Mother India might have been 
responsible for some of the notions they had acquired or retained 
about caste, untouchability, and the low status of Indian women. 
Finally, there was a small group and here we are among people 
directly and specifically concerned with India who remembered 
quite precisely what the book was about and spoke of it either approv- 
ingly or disapprovingly according to their general predilections. 

Sparse as it was, this awareness of Mother India was greater in 
the group as a whole than of any other literary source relating to 
India except for the work of Rudyard Kipling. 


THE benighted heathen and the lesser breed are one and the same. 
The difference lies in the view of the beholder and depends on the 
relative sizes of the religious and secular peepholes through which he 
looks upon the rest of humanity. It is presumably plain that the 
propositions are twin: only a lesser breed could be so benightedly 
heathen; heathen so benighted must necessarily be of a lesser breed. 
Indeed, if there is any nuance at all, it disappears in the source of the 
phrase itself. It comes from Kipling's "Recessional/ 7 his hymn to the 
God of our fathers "beneath whose awful hand we hold/ Dominion 


over palm and pine." It is in this poem that the most widely heard 
of all tumult and shouting in our language dies, that the best-known 
of all Captains and Kings depart. Here too, sinning in their failure 
to hold Kipling's God in awe, are the lesser breeds without the Law. 

Kipling is not best remembered for the posture of religious humil- 
ity he strikes in this poem. But even this humility is not a denial 
but an affirmation of the whole sense and spirit of the White Man's 
Burden; he demands only that it be borne with a proper respect for 
its divine sanction. Where it occurs in the "Recessional," the phrase 
lesser breeds without the Law may not even have meant what any- 
body would expect Kipling to mean by such a phrase. George Orwell 
has suggested that he was "almost certainly" referring here to the 
Germans who had embarked at that time (1897) on a peculiarly 
lawless jag of imperialist expansion. 31 It almost does not matter, for 
the phrase has passed into our language in terms wholly in tune 
with Kipling's essential spirit: it expresses for all whom it fits the 
assumed attitude of social, racial, and physical superiority of the 
white Westerner toward the nonwhite, non-Christian peoples whom 
he subdued and held under his power in the years ending now. 

Kipling's well-known contempt for the Hindu has been shared 
by a great many Westerners, both English and American, before 
Kipling's time and since, including a certain number of our present 
panelists. To a certain extent there has been a borrowing or an 
absorption of some of these attitudes by Americans from English- 
men, prominently including Kipling himself. But Bernard Stern's 
sharp-eyed culling of the writings of American travelers, journalists, 
and officials, as well as missionaries, during the nineteenth century 
long before Kipling shows that the record is too long and too full for 
any easy acceptance of this explanation. The same ideas, the same 
images, the same reactions, and often even the same words in 
Stern's century-old quotations from scores of works recur again and 
again in our notes of interviews with Americans held only yesterday, 
Americans who almost certainly never read any of these old books 
and whose recall of Kipling is usually too dim and sparse to account 
wholly by itself for the coincidence and the sharpness of their views. 

The picture of the despised Hindu assumes many forms and par- 
ticulars. It can be expressed with easy contempt, as in the long-lived 

31 George Orwell, "Rudyard Kipling," in Dickens, Ddi and Others, New 
York, 1946, pp. 141142. 


The poor benighted Hindu, 
He does the best he kin do, 

Sticks to his caste, 

From first to last, 
And for trousers just lets his skin do. 

It also comes blistered and blistering from a collision of cultural 
values, habits, ideas. It has to do with all the emotionally charged 
judgments and reactions toward the benighted heathen with which 
we have already dealt. It reproduces, in the Indian setting, most of 
the features of Westerners' reaction to the faceless mass already 
described in relation to the Chinese. It has to do with the con- 
quered Indian, seen as unvital and weak as well as backward and 
all but subhuman. It also has to do with the Indian as a dark-skinned 

THE FACELESS MASS: In India, as in China, an overwhelming im- 
pact is made by the sheer numbers of people. Here are its constantly 
recurring terms: 

teeming masses, teeming cities, teeming population, teeming millions; 
swarming masses, great masses, vast, tremendous, enormous masses; 
crowds on the streets, on the Ganges, in the cities; numbers, density, 
multitudes, swarming, immense, dense population; people, mobs of 
people, sea, hordes, millions of people; nobody knows how many there 
are on this human anthill. . . . 

Some see it as a problem, the population problem, sometimes chal- 
lenging, more often staggering or even insoluble. A great many others 
attach to their view of the mass their own vividly fearful images of 
terrible poverty: 

emaciated people, diseases, ribs showing, shriveled bellies, corpses, 
children with fly-encircled eyes, with swollen stomachs, children dying 
in the streets, rivers choked with bodies; people living, sleeping, lying, 
dying on the streets in misery, beggary, squalor, wretchedness, a mass 
of serniaboriginal humanity. . . . 

In some cases the direct impact of this massed misery is emotionally 
intolerable. The first impression especially strikes a hard blow; it 
comes most often in memories of the gateway cities of Calcutta and 

that ride from Dum Dum into Calcutta; the streets of Calcutta made 


me physically sick; after seeing the slums of Bombay I felt only horror 
at the luxurious life led by myself and my Indian friends; I broke down 
and cried on my bed after the first shock of poverty in Bombay. . . . 

Adjustment has to follow, and it could assume forms as various as 
the varieties of personality. It could involve a sense of guilt that 
would never wholly recede and might even reshape a person's whole 
life thereafter. It could cause shame that sooner or later had to be 
rationalized into some other emotion in order to be tolerated. It 
could provoke only pity, and sometimes, for some people, the line 
between pity and contempt is thin, fine, almost invisible, often not 
there at all: 

I almost despise the people; have contempt for them; feel irritation,, 
impatience, aversion, disdain, resentment. . . . 

For others, especially those at a greater distance from this great face- 
less wretched mass, the impact is much less felt because its existence 
is a fact beyond acceptable reality. This unbelieving rejection, 
whether close at hand or remote, often leads to the same result, 
to the same need to place these faceless masses beyond the knowable 
human pale, to see them, in short, as the lesser breed without the 

THE CONQUERED INDIAN: This is the Indian whom Kipling saw as 
"new caught, sullen . , . half-devil and half-child." This is also the 
Indian as a few (3) of our interviewees see him, who has 

always been conquered, always ran away, the country that had never 
shown strength to defend her rights and herself. 

Seen primarily as a servant (by 8), he is 
obsequious, servile, cringing, submissive. 
More generally he is marked (for 15) by 

passivity, inertia, docility, despair, lacking vigor, stamina, persistence, 
lacking initiative, industry, vitality, enterprise, enthusiasm. 

The same figure is further particularized (by 23) in these terms: 

like slaves, inert, whipped cur, avoid your eye, hopeless, just stand 
stoically; masses lying on streets not moving, people lying in gutters 
who have just given up, accept their fate, starving to death without 
lifting a finger; beaten down, no spark of gumption, the poorer Hindu 


buckling in at the knees, leaden overwhelming misery; only Indians 
accept suffering like this, no dynamism, no feeling of energy, a broken- 
spirited people. . . . 

Here it is primarily the impression of weakness that provokes rejec- 
tion and contempt. Indians (it was said by 13) are 

effete, soft, weak, unresilient, timid, no muscles, effeminate, lack 
virility, are not very good fighters. 

For some this is strictly an impression of the Indian as a physical 
being; for others it involves their rejection of the ideas of passivity, 
negation, submission which they see as central to the Hindu religious 
and philosophic outlook. 32 Sometimes it extends all the way to a 
more or less conscious rejection of the idea of Gandhian nonvio- 
lence; sometimes it is seized upon as the essential explanation for 
the Indian policy of so-called "neutralism" in current world affairs 
in which the American is interested. But it clearly goes farther back 
and deeper and relates to the value placed in Western society (and 
especially in Anglo-American society) on power, on strength, on 
physical prowess. 

Until only the day before yesterday, it was always understood and 
assumed that a small Western military force was more than a match 
for an Indian (or Chinese, or other Asian) force many times its 
size. Similarly, the individual Westerner was a muscled giant who 
could invariably take on whole mobs of puny Asians singlehanded. 
This superior virtue has been sung and pictured in poem and film 
over the years: in a moving picture like Gunga Din, Victor McLaglen 
and Gary Grant, as tall, brawny British troopers, are engaged for a 
good part of the total footage in brawling free-for-alls with dozens 

32 In Come, My Beloved (New York, 1953) Pearl Buck writes of an Ameri- 
can industrialist visiting India about one hundred years ago who sees how an 
Indian potter, threatened by an approaching cobra, sits motionless in an attitude 
of prayer. The cobra eventually glides away, and the potter explains that the 
snake is a god and that it is sinful to kill one. "All the way back to Poona he kept 
seeing the flattened devilish head of the snake, and between him and it the 
slender graceful figure of the potter, a good man as even he could see, but one 
who did not dare kill the snake, the curse, the menace even to his own life, be- 
cause of his religion. . . . Religion! Was that religion, being willing to wait for a 
snake to strike, passive and waiting, no protest, no self-defense? No wonder the 
people sat upon the barren land, waiting for the rains . . ." pp. 29-31. By con- 
trast, Bishop Frederick Fisher, in That Strange Little Brown Man, Gandhi, (New 
York, 1932) tells reverently how Gandhi's mother calmly refused to kill a scor- 
pion that crawled upon her as the frightened boy Gandhi watched. pp. 8, 9. 


and scores of Indians whom they hurl around like so many dolls. 
In pictures like the recent King of the Khyber Rifles (1954) it is 
made clear that one Englishman, even a half-Englishman, is more 
of a man than a whole recalcitrant tribe. This illusion of superiority 
dies very hard indeed. In the surviving figure of the weak and puny 
Indian those who mourn its passing keep alive the ghosts of their 
own past. 

THE LESS LESSER BREED: The built-in Anglo-American reverence 
for physical prowess has often been generous enough in times past 
to extend to the foe or subject who proved the rule of Western 
superiority by being an exception to it. The admired attribute of 
strength could cancel out or neutralize much else that was despised, 
especially when the exceptional showing occurred either in the West- 
erner's service or in an episodic victory over him. East and West 
might never meet, but there was neither East nor West, sang Kip- 
ling, "When two strong men stand face to face, though they come 
from the ends of the earth!" ("Ballad of East and West"). When 
Sudanese warriors broke up an English square, they earned a Kipling 
salute: "You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first-class fightin' 
man." ( "Fuzzy- Wuzzy"). And of course, though he'd been "belted 
and flayed," it was Gunga Din's ultimate act of sacrificial heroism for 
his belters and flayers that made him such a better man. This special 
recognition of vigor and strength is conferred from time to time 
on Indian troops who loyally served under the officers of the Crown, 
on warrior castes like the Rajputs and the Mahrattas. In our inter- 
views it has occasionally turned up in the form of compliments for 
the upstanding Sikhs or the Gurkha fighting men. But most often 
it appears as part of a generalized prejudice in favor of the Muslim 
as compared to the Hindu. This generally has to do with the Muslim 
seen as the more aggressive, more upstanding figure, readier and 
abler to meet the Westerner on Western terms, willing and able to 
fight. It runs from this to a notion of greater alikeness and to the 
feeling that compared to Hinduism, Islam is a religion much closer 
to Christianity. These ideas emerge in 21 of our interviews in the 
following terms: 

Even the poor Muslim is a vigorous man, while the poor Hindu is 
buckling in at the knees; Pakistanis seemed energetic Western types, 
easier to talk to; had a partiality for Muslims, perhaps because, like 
the British, I felt they were "more like us"; I hear from people that the 


Pakistanis are up and coming, good people, good fighters, whereas the 
Hindus are said to be mystics, dreamers, hypocrites; I was brought up 
on Kipling, i.e., all Muslims fine, all Hindus unattractive; I like the 
Muslims better, we have the Old Testament in common with them; 
Muslim faith is more dynamic, the Muslim believes in one god; never 
had the disadvantage of the caste system, eats better diet, more mascu- 
linity; Muslim is very close to the Christian in faith and loyalties. . . . 

Some of this language clearly indicates that many of these remarks 
are quite recent impressions of Pakistanis, i.e., citizens of the country 
that is so much friendlier than India to current American views of 
the world situation. Several make this quite explicit: 

The Pakistanis are ready to stand up and be counted as our friends, 
the Indians are not; officials here [in Washington] say Pakistanis are 
much friendlier, personally and politically. . . . 

These more immediate affinities run quite easily into the older 
grooves, i.e., the Muslims are our friends because they are more 
vigorous people, better fighters, etc., confirming common British 
impressions that go a long way back and received such explicit form 
in the works of Kipling. 33 The idea of the Muslims as stout, hardy, 
doughty, superb fighters owes a great deal to the Kiplingesque pic- 
ture of the Muslim warriors of the Northwest Frontier, wily, treach- 
erous, vicious, but also brave, foolhardy foes who made it possible to 
sing the praise of the British mettle, an image reproduced after 
Kipling by a small army of lesser writers and multiplied many times 
on movie screens by Hollywood. 34 
This strongly stereotyped British preference for the Muslim, 

33 Kipling's sympathies in general, remarks Somerset Maugham, "lay with the 
Muslims rather than the Hindus. . . . There were qualities in the Muslims that 
aroused his admiration; he seldom spoke of the Hindus with appreciation. . . . 
The Bengali, for instance, was to him a coward, a muddler, a braggart . . ." 
Maugham's Choice of Kipling's Best, New York, 1953, pp. vii-viii. 

34 E.g., The Black Watch (1929) in which a British officer, a Muslim aide, 
and a Muslim force save the Khyber Pass for Britain during World War I. The 
theme of British glory in the frontier wars against the hill tribesmen has all but 
dominated American film treatment of India ever since the American Mutoscope 
and Biograph Company in 1903 made a picture called Charge of the ist Bengal 
Lancers. Those Bengal Lancers or their equivalents have charged continuously 
across American screens year after year, decade after decade. Through all the 
years of the Gandhi-led Congress movement against Britain in India, the only 
rebellions recognized by Hollywood were those of the hillsmen on the frontiers, 
in which the British always won for India's greater good and safety. Cf. Dorothy 
Jones, op. czt., pp. 55-59. 


adopted or reproduced by many Americans, is rooted in a rather 
complex history of relationships. The British conquered India by 
breaking the power of the ruling Muslim Moguls, and it was among 
Muslims that the British in the early days recruited most of their 
Indian troops. From among these came some of the rebels of the 
Sepoy Rebellion of a century ago, and while that bloody affair ran 
its course they were pictured in avidly read British and American 
accounts as brutish, cruel, and even more wickedly heathenish than 
the Hindus. Seen in this setting, the Muslims were the kind of 
people, wrote one American, who would "assuredly crucify Jesus 
afresh on the streets of Delhi were he to come down from Heaven 
and fall in their power. 35 Said another: "While Hindus are super- 
stitious and credulous, they remain pacific and courteous and intel- 
ligent. Muslims are the direct opposite in character. They are 
insolent and sensual, the very essence of their religion being hate 
and malignity. In fact they would have put all non-Muslims to death 
if it were not for a strong Christian power." ** But after the British 
had blown a considerable number of them from the mouths of their 
cannon as examples and then brought the rest to heel, the Muslim 
soldier again became a faithful servant of the Queen. Although 
other martial Indian types were recruited into Britain's Indian army, 
the Muslims occupied a special place in British affections. Their 
wilder opposite numbers in the hills of the frontier likewise, in the 
romantic good-show tradition, could often command the ready or 
grudging admiration of the British officers who sallied out against 
them from their remote border forts. After the turn of the century, 
when Hindu-Muslim hostility became a factor in the rise of Indian 
nationalism, the leadership of the Muslim minority was often cast, 
or cast itself, in the role of makeweight for the British in their effort 
to cope with growing Indian recalcitrance. As Indian nationalism 
became over the years a movement infinitely more formidable than 
the vest-pocket frontier rebellions, Muslim differences with the 
Hindu became a major asset for the British and British favor became 
a useful lever for Muslim leaders. The upper-class Indian Muslim 
often adapted himself readily and acceptably to the British mold. 
Both sides profited considerably from a complicated relationship 
over the years, culminating in mutual pledges and policies that ulti- 

35 Stern, op. cit, p. 166. 
S6 Ibid., p. 121. 


mately helped bring about partition of the country and the creation 
of Pakistan. 

The "good chap" status won by many Muslims was also achieved, 
to be sure, by Hindus as well; the Indian civil servant who became 
more British than the British is a figure that has only now begun 
to fade. But to achieve this status and this state of mind, the Hindu 
had to alienate himself from his own traditions to a far greater de- 
gree than the Muslim, and the wrench often made him into a good 
deal less of a pleasant fellow at various stages of his development. 
Here, from one of our interviews, is one rather unusual man's read- 
ing of this relationship: 

When I came to teach in London (in the early 1930'$), I was 
violently pro-Indian and anti-British on general political grounds re- 
lating to the status of India. Then I experienced a certain disenchant- 
ment. Found among the Indian students a top 10 per cent who were 
first rate but found among the rest an unusually high proportion of 
twisty, shifty individuals, liars, lacking in dignity in the circumstances 
of university life. However, more contact and reflection made me 
realize that the Hindu had never really recognized white supremacy, 
while the Muslim always looked to the British for protection from the 
Hindu. The Muslims were therefore "easier to deal with/' i.e., they ac- 
cepted more of the Britisher's terms of behavior and were therefore, 
mistakenly, seen as "more honest." I saw, for my part, that the Hindus 
were more difficult to deal with, were more unpleasant, for reasons I 
actually valued; their lying and behavior was part of a self-conscious 
process of resistance. 

THE VILLAINOUS INDIAN: There is only one important real-life 
source for any current image of the Indian as a man of cruel and 
ugly violence. This is the truly terrifying image of the Indian in the 
setting of fanatical mob violence and fratricidal massacre, as in the 
Hindu-Muslim clashes before and during the partition of India and 
intermittently in mob outbreaks since. 37 Almost all other images of 

37 A. M. Rosen thai, the New "York Times' able correspondent in India, has 
reverted often in his dispatches to the "strange flashing stream of violence in 
Indian life/' Cf. "Violence Mars Nehru Mission of Reform" (June 10, 1956), 
"Nehru Bids India Give Up Violence" (August 16, 1956), and "False Gandhism 
Plagues Nehru/' New York Times Magazine, November 4, 1956. 

The film version of John Masters' Bhowani Junction (1956) devotes a good 
part of its footage to Indian mobs engaged in pillage, arson, murder, and mean- 
ingless destruction, all in lurid color. 


the Indian as villain are synthetic and a good deal less than lifelike. 

Mentioned a few times out of snatches remembered from history 
books, or, more likely, from the pages of George Henry, we hear of 
the Black Hole of Calcutta or the murderous villains of the Sepoy 
Rebellion, an event which has been kept alive hardly as history but 
rather as the setting for innumerable adventure tales or films. The 
evil or treacherous rajah was already a fixture in American moving 
pictures when George Arliss played the part in The Green Goddess 
in 1923. He is usually either trying to betray the British (and the 
best interest of India) by conspiring with the wild men of the hills, 
or is the leader of some viciously cruel and mysterious secret cult, or 
has evil designs on the lovely white girl who falls into his clutches, 
or, often enough, all of these together. There is the villainously 
savage tribesman himself, wily and bloodthirsty, whose greatest joy is 
to hurl his spear from the saddle of his galloping horse into the 
breast of a prisoner, preferably British, waiting tied to a stake for 
his brutal end. This pastime, known as "pig-sticking," was repro- 
duced in meticulous and gory detail as recently as 1954 in the film 
King of the Khyber Rifles. 

No one at all, oddly, mentioned the standard Indian villain of 
the genre of English literature represented by Conan Doyle's Sign of 
the Four. He is the turbaned, silent, soft-footed avenger come to 
England to recover the lost gem acquired by our retired hero in some 
romantic or no matter shady adventure. This has been the theme 
of a thousand stories and films. Almost the first feature-type Ameri- 
can movie ever made on an Indian theme was Universal^ Bombay 
Buddha, which concerned the theft and recovery of a golden Buddha 
figure. That was back in 1915, and it has been repeated interminably 
ever since. Likewise unsummoned from the innumerable paper- 
backed pages in which he has dwelt all these decades was the lascar, 
the "East India seaman," crewman aboard the British tramp lying 
in Singapore harbor or moving slowly up the Thames in the fog. 
He carries a knife in his teeth and his oiled body glistens as he goes 
about his business of thievery, murder, or the more staple occupa- 
tion of jewel recovery. More modern paperbacks appear to prefer 
glistening bodies of the other gender, like Woman of KdZz, 38 featur- 
ing "Sharita, high priestess of the cult of death, mistress of forbidden 
rites" in "barbaric India, land of languor, intrigue, strange appetites, 

38 Gold Medal Books, 1954. 


exotic women, cruel and scheming men!" Sharita commands an army 
of Thugs, the cult of villainous stranglers featured in so many thrillers 
of an earlier day when murderers did not have to be lascivious, 
merely murderous. It has all been for naught, as far as our present 
panel is concerned: none of these avengers, turbaned or oiled, or 
stranglers, male or female, turned up. If they had ever passed through 
any of these minds, their passage went unacknowledged, or else they 
had moved softly, as befits their role, and had left nary a scratch. 

THE DARK-SKINNED INDIAN: For certain people, it is villainy enough 
in the Indian that he is a man with a dark skin. The black Gunga 
Din had to be "white, clear white inside," when he acted like a brave 
man, and black all the way through the rest of the time when he was 
his cringing pathetic self. Nothing quite so crude as this turned up 
in our interviews; indeed direct evidence of prejudice based on "race" 
or "color" was extremely scant. It has become bad taste, to be sure, 
to express such feelings openly. In the case of the Indians, moreover, 
there were so many other grounds, religious, cultural, political, for 
overt hostility that feelings about "color" or "race" could easily 
have remained safely submerged. About this no certain statement 
can be made; I can only report what the interviews did show: 

Only 12 individuals mentioned color directly as an Indian attri- 
bute. Two did so admiringly: 

That good-looking bluish-brown or bluish-black color; their dark skins 
and brilliant dress. . . . 

Six simply mentioned 

skin color, dark, dark-skinned 

as part of their mental picture of the Indian. These could have been 
obscure suggestions of prejudice or quite simple statements of fact. 
In some of these cases, the skin color of the Indian apparently served 
as a "label of primary potency," Gordon Allporf s term for the most 
highly visible impression of a person or a people. Only 4 became 
explicit about color as a negative factor. One confessed uneasily that 

skin color causes a certain tension in meetings with Indians 
and another said 

in dealing with Indians you feel you're dealing with colored people, the 
same way you feel in the presence of Negroes. . . . 



A third, speaking not of himself but of others in his circle of 
friends, said: 

The Indian with his darker skin perhaps consciously or unconsciously 
suggests the Negro in the United States. That is why some Indians get 
refused by some hotels. Some friends of mine, one of them a South- 
erner, have said so in so many words: "They're just damn niggers to 

A fourth, when asked what he thought the American man-in-the- 
street might mentally associate with Indians, instantly answered- 

This is as far as the interviews go on this matter, and it is obviously 
not very far. The association of the Indian and the Negro in these 
references does suggest, however, the value of attempting a look at 
the place of the Indian in the characteristic American color-prejudice 
pattern. Gordon Allport has said: "A person with dark brown skin 
will activate whatever concept of Negro is dominant in our mind. 
If the dominant category is one composed of negative attitudes and 
beliefs, we will automatically avoid him, or adopt whichever habit 
of rejection is most available to us. 77 39 Actually the position with re- 
gard to the Indian is rather less simple than this suggests. In some 
major respects, American color prejudice indiscriminately embraces 
everything non-"white." But there are also shades of prejudice as 
various as the shades of color, and they flicker often according to 
place, person, and circumstance. Except for certain Californians of 
a certain mental or physical age bracket, "yellow" as in Chinese, 
Japanese, Koreantends to register rather mildly on the screens 
of "white" American color sensitivity; "brown/ 7 even a non-Ameri- 
can brown as in Indonesians and Filipinosis a good deal less mild; 
but it is "black" wherever it comes from that sets the racial-color 
counters clicking the most violently. The Indian, shading along a 
wide spectrum from fair to brown to black, arouses these reactions 
in varying measures. The experience of Indian visitors to this coun- 
try, depending on their looks and on where they go, is likely to vary 
in this regard from nothing to the galling rudeness which is still 
the stuff of daily life to so many American Negroes in so many 

The theme of sinful or tragic interracial love between Americans 
and Asians of different colors has been a recurring one in films and 
89 The Nature of Prejudice, Boston, 1954, p. 21. 


popular literature. In order to have a happy ending, such stories usu- 
ally contrived to turn the Asian involved into the long-lost child of 
suitably white parents and thus make possible the consummation in 
the sunset. Otherwise, it was necessary to kill off one of the ill- 
starred pair. One way or another, it was agreed they could never 
live happily ever after. Only recently has a slightly more mature or 
casual note been struck about such affairs, although it is still ex- 
tremely tentative and cautious. 40 As the son of an Indian mother, 
Tyrone Power nevertheless wins the general's daughter in King of 
the Khyber Rifles, and in The Purple Plain (1955), set in wartime 
Burma, Gregory Peck goes the distance with the beauteous Burmese 
girl. But both Tyrone Power and the Burmese beauty are fair. 
Garish advertisements for The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) daringly 
showed a really dark-skinned Indian planting a kiss on Lana Turner's 
lily-white throat, and the suggestion was left that this was "the great 
sin that even the heavens could not wash away." 

The issue of color in relation to Indians rises now in a setting of 
great mutual self-conscious sensitivity: Indians watch for it to come 
up, Americans are embarrassed when it does. But this American 
embarrassment is quite new, and this very newness is often an un- 
realized factor in Indian-American encounters. It was only a few 
years ago, well within the lifetimes of most of those present, that 
without any embarrassment at all, American lawmakers and Amer- 
ican courts were officially relegating Indians to the status of lesser 
breeds where, it was felt, they rightly belonged. There were so few 
Indians visible on the American scene before these last few years 
that the degree of Indian involvement in American immigration 
laws and practices is a matter now remembered, it would seem, by 
very few. Indian immigration never did approximate the levels of the 
Chinese or Japanese; it began as a trickle in 1895 and reached a peak 
of 5,000 entries at San Francisco in 1910. These Indians, first as 
railway laborers and then as farmers, formed tiny enclaves in Calp 
fornia that were gradually reduced in size as pressure against them 
grew. Indian immigration had never been made easy by supervising 
American officials and was finally cut off altogether by the Immigra- 
tion Act of 1917. In 1922 there were 2,600 Indians in the United 
States, 2,400 in 1940, and more than 3,000 in 1950, including 1,500 
students. The small communities of Indian fanners in California, 
composed mostly of Punjabi Sikhs, became one of the smaller tar- 
40 Cf. Dorothy Jones, op. cit., p. 54. 


gets, along with the Japanese and the Chinese, of recurring "anti- 
Oriental" agitation. A 1920 report to the governor of California on 
the Hindu settlements complained of unsanitary conditions: "The 
Hindu standard of living is so vastly different from ours that it is 
diEcult to present it properly." 41 Called "ragheads" by their con- 
temptuous fellow Californians, these Indians kept their heads down, 
worked painfully hard, and from among their number began to send 
some of the first Indian students ever to enter American universities. 
Some even became naturalized citizens of the United States until 
their claim to be "white persons" as defined in the prevailing Ameri- 
can statute was challenged in the courts. 

The claimant in the case, a Punjabi Sikh who had entered the 
country in 1913 and served with American forces in the First World 
War, claimed to be "a descendant of the Aryans of India, belonging 
to the Caucasian race (and, therefore) white within the meaning 
of our naturalization laws." 42 In a decision handed down on Febru- 
ary 19, 1923, the United States Supreme Court disallowed this claim. 
Justice Sutherland, who wrote the majority opinion, found that a 
Hindu was not, after all, a "white person" in terms of the common 
understanding: "The words of the statute are to be interpreted in 
accordance with the understanding of the common man, from whose 
vocabulary they were taken." It was not a matter of racial superior- 
ity or inferiority, he went on, but of acknowledging a racial differ- 
ence which, in the case of the Hindu "is of such a character and 
extent that the great body of our people instinctively recognize it 
and reject the thought of assimilation." Since the Act of 1917 had 
excluded all Indians as immigrants, it was "not likely that Congress 
would be willing to accept as citizens a class of persons whom it re- 
jects as immigrants." The Sutherland decision, says the Literary 
Digest summary, "was hailed for the most part with delight by the 
California press and that of our Western seaboard." It was promptly 
followed by steps to force the Hindus off their little landholdings. 
Elsewhere in the country, the whole issue drew little attention. In 
India, however, it became one of the sources of a deeply biting and 
long-lasting grievance against the United States and against Amer- 
icans. 43 

4 * California and the Oriental, Report of the State Board of Control of Cali- 
fornia, June, 1920. 

42 Literary Digest, March 10, 1923. 

43 Anup Singh, "A Quota for India Too/' Asia and the Americas, April, 1944. 


This grievance was dramatized in 1929 when Rabindranath Ta- 
gore, the great Indian poet, arrived in this country for a lecture tour, 
was received insultingly by an immigration official, dropped his tour 
plans, and abruptly left the country. Tagore wrote of this incident: 

His insulting questions and attitude were deeply humiliating. ... I 
was not used to such treatment. ... I came into the country, but my 
mind was not at ease. I went to Los Angeles, stayed there and lectured. 
But all the time I was impressed by the spirit in the air. The people 
seemed to be cultivating an attitude of suspicion and uncivility toward 
Indians. I did not like it at all. I could not stay on sufferance, suffer 
indignities for being an Asiatic. It was not a personal grievance, but as 
a representative of all Asiatic peoples, I could not remain under the 
shadow of such insults. I took passage without delay. . . . 44 

In various experimental studies of group prejudice patterns be- 
gun by pioneering social psychologists in the 1930'$ the Hindu sel- 
dom figured because few ever thought of the Hindu as playing any 
role at all in American experience. Where he was included, he in- 
variably turned up at or near the bottom of all racial or social 
preference lists, usually rubbing shoulders there with the Turks at 
"the extremes of unfamiliarity." Since few if any of the Americans 
tested had ever seen, much less known, a Hindu, it was observed 
that it was "the ideas about the Hindu" that governed. 45 Unfor- 
tunately these ideas about the Hindu were never examined, but it 
does not seem rash to guess that they would resemble many of 
those which have appeared in the course of the present inquiry. 

The official or legal view of the Indians as a lesser breed, at least 
insofar as it was expressed in immigration and naturalization bars, 
was not replaced until 1946, when an act of Congress restored to 
a quota of 100 Indians annually the privilege of entering the United 
States as immigrants and permitted them to become, if they de- 
sired, naturalized citizens of this country. This act was part of a 
broader action relaxing American bars against several Asian nationali- 
ties. Still limited, it was nevertheless the beginning of an American 
response to the changing patterns of world power relationships. 
These changes were making it difficult for Americans at least in 
the person of their federal government to indulge their prejudices 

44 Indian Review, July, 1929, quoted by Schmidt, op. eft., p. 291. 

45 Krech and Crutchfield, Theory and Problems of Social Psychology, New 
York, 1948, p. 483. 


quite as freely as they could in the past. Changes abroad had be- 
come more compelling than "the understanding of the common 
man" at home or even as so much of this study shows the under- 
standing of the not-so-common man, which has hardly changed at 
all in these respects. 

It is the experience of this not-so-common man which leads pe- 
culiar relevance here to this brief review of the place of the Indian 
in the American color-prejudice pattern. Those few who have a long 
past of contact with India and Indians know and have felt its im- 
pact on themselves and on Indians. 46 But the greater number en- 
countered India and Indians in a serious way only yesterday. Few 
of these show any awareness of this history. Many seem to have 
believed that the heritage of the past could have produced nothing 
but a benevolent and admiring attitude among Indians toward 
Americans. The discovery instead of bitterness, resentment, hostility 
was often a shock. Even then, it would frequently be assumed that 
this was something new, a product of current misunderstandings 
and differences rather than old hostilities cropping out in new set- 
tings. To many such Americans, reacting defensively with counterirri- 
tation and counterhostility, it would come as a surprise, I am sure, to 
learn that the American color bar has been a sore issue among many 
Indians for at least fifty years, that twenty-five years ago Indians 
in various local governments were trying to match American legal 
barriers imposed on Indians by imposing counterrestrictions of a sim- 
ilar sort on Americans in India. 47 The great majority of the Ameri- 
cans who figure in our present study are certainly not guilty of any 
of the cruder racialist attitudes and earnestly want to wipe the past 
slate clean; they simply underestimate the extent to which they must 

46 In her novel about an India missionary family, Pearl Buck makes this the 
nub and the ultimate irony of her story. The third-generation missionary, who has 
given his life to work in a remote Indian village, is brought face to face with the 
Emits pjf his own belief in the brotherhood of man when his daughter falls in 
love with an Indian doctor who comes to ask for her hand. "His fervid eyes, his 
glowing words, the impetuous grace of his outstretched hands, the long fingers 
bending backward, the thumbs apart and tense, the white palms contrasted 
against the dark skin, were all too Indian, and in one of the rare moments of 
revulsion which Ted considered his secret sin, he was now revolted and sick. 
What bis Livy, his darling daughter? . . . Was she to give up everything for 
this alien man? For a moment his soul swam in darkness. No, and forever, no!" 
Come, My Beloved, p. 284. 

47 E. R. Schmidt, of>. cit, p. 351, says that G. B. Pant, now Home Minister 
in Nehm's cabinet, was the sponsor of one such piece of legislation in the 1930'$. 


still carry the burden of the sins of their fathers now visited upon 
them. 48 

THE LESSER BREED'S LESSER BREEDS: The Indian as the dark- 
skinned object of white racist prejudice is only one-half of the story: 
the other half is the Indian, in all his many hues and groups, who 
has divided his own people and his own society into a complex 
hierarchy of greater and lesser breeds. The view of this side of the 
profile emerges no less sharply etched from a comparable number 
of interviews. It becomes more or less explicit in the large majority 
of interview references to the caste system and untouchability. It is 
present in references to racial and religious fanaticism and violence 
in India, especially in connection with the Hindu-Muslim slaughters 
at the time of the partition. It comes up most directly and specifi- 
cally in 20 interviews as follows: 

strong color feeling; race prejudices; the caste system is based funda- 
mentally on color; they hate each other as well as us; internal color 
difficulties in India; they prefer lighter-colored skins. . . . 

In this connection two of our Negro panelists recalled their own 
experiences with Indian fellow students in their university days: 

the Indians wore turbans so as not to be identified with Negroes; they 
kept their distance, wanted nothing to do with Negroes. 

Here is a larger excerpt from the remarks of a third, a Negro scholar 
who spent a year much more recently at a large Indian university: 

I definitely did not like the arrogant Punjabis I met in Delhi. Think 
I disliked them because most Punjabis are very light, consider them- 
selves Aryan, always refer to "aryan culture." They would always refer 
to South Indians in a sarcastic manner, ridiculing them as would-be 
intellectuals, called them "pseudos," were contemptuous of them be- 
cause they were so black. Must stress that this was one small group, 
even of the Punjabi group as a whole. Suppose attitudes on this ques- 

48 On the other hand, very few Indians can probably appreciate the dramatic 
speed with which these patterns can be upset in American life. The Indian com- 
munity in the United States is still tiny and its rights to citizenship are only a 
decade old. Nevertheless in November, 1956, in California, the ancestral home 
of "anti-Oriental" prejudices, Dahp S. Saund, a Sikh who became a citizen in 
1949, was elected to Congress from an Imperial Valley district, defeating 
Jacqueline Cochran Odium, one of the country's most famous women fliers and 
wife of a wealthy industrialist. Saund was elected as a Democrat, moreover, from 
a normally Republican district. He had served since 1952 as elected justice of the 
peace in the valley town of Westmoreland. 



tion would be decisive in determining my attitudes. . . . Once at school 
when I sat down to talk to a dark girl from Madras, she told me she 
thought I would never talk to her because she thought I didn't like 
"dark" people! She told me she had been rejected as the bride of a 
lighter fellow of her own caste and that his mother had said to her 
intended fiance, in her presence: "You can't bring a black one like this 
into our family!" 

The historical relationship between caste and color or "race" among 
Indians has been a matter of some scholarly controversy. In one re- 
cent work which argues for a minimal role of color in the origins of 
caste, the author nevertheless remarks: "The racial theory of the 

Ed Fisher 1956 The New Yorker Magazine Inc. 

"More controversy in Alabama! Youd think those people 

-were being asked to send their children to school with 



origin of caste has tended to give new meaning to some Hindus' 
conception of themselves. Castes are now claiming to be 'true Aryans' 
with a recently discovered sense of tentative Nordic arrogance." As 
an example he quotes Swami Abhendananda: 

"This noble pride has prevented the members of different communi- 
ties from holding free intercourse and from intermarrying with foreigners 
and invading nations, and has thus kept the Aryan blood pure and un- 
adulterated. If they had not ... we should not find in India today the 
full-blooded descendants of the pure Aryan family/' 49 

Attitudes about "race" and "color" have become a delicate and 
often embarrassing subject for some Indians in more recent years, 
especially when they have to explain the matter to Americans who 
are surprised to find long columns of matrimonial advertisements 
in Indian newspapers specifying the color shades desired in prospec- 
tive spouses. Members of the New Delhi Rotary Club were a good 
deal more embarrassed and appalled in February, 1955, when five 
African students studying at Indian universities told them, according 
to The Times of India, that they found "the prejudice of Indians 
almost as bad as that of South African Europeans," that "if India 
is against colonialism it should not discriminate against colonials 
of a darker hue." The charges were discussed at a further meeting 
and brought a flurry of explanations and disclaimers and counter- 
charges of exaggeration. One university official said that "in the 
rough and tumble of university life differences were bound to occur" 
and that "the African students, familiar with colour discrimination 
in their own country, were inclined to accept any exhibition of bad 
manners as an insult to their race." Others explained that the Afri- 
cans were interpreting the "reserve" of Indian social life as "a dis- 
play of prejudice against them." Another pointed out that whereas 
European South Africans were rigidly enforcing their color attitudes, 
"Indians were trying to rid themselves" of the "relic of colour con- 
sciousness" deriving from "the ancient system of caste." In a letter 
to the editor, M. S. Radakrishnan said the African charges should 
be "an eye-opener to every Indian." He warned: "To show any col- 
our discrimination against [the Africans] will mar our international 
reputation and will defeat our policy of universal brotherhood. The 

49 Oliver Cromwell Cox, Caste, Class and Race, New York, 1948, p. 82. 
For a brief discussion of some of the obscurities connected with "Aryan" 
prehistory in India, see Ralph Linton 7 The Tree of Culture, New York, 19 5 5,, 

pp. 478-485. 


African students will carry with them memories of bitter experi- 
ences in this country. It may soon be too late for us to make 
amends." 5<) 

The ironies in all this are, of course, multiple. Among Americans, 
the "common understanding" on this subject has undergone consid- 
erable development. No American judge, certainly, could stand to- 
day on Justice Sutherland's 1923 grounds. In social practice, however, 
the idea of "white superiority" still protrudes sufficiently to become 
part of the experience of many Indians traveling in the United 
States, or to form part of a more generalized Indian conception of 
the United States as a whole or Americans in general. But not all of 
this Indian reaction is necessarily based on any consistent humanism. 
I refer here to those Indians and they are numerous enough to be 
part of the experience of Americans encountering Indians in recent 
years who really think of themselves as more "white" than the 
"whites," indeed, as descendants from that "pure Aryan family" of 
prehistoric times. This endows them with a sort of Mayflower status 
in relation to "whiteness" or "Aryanism" which they deny to many 
of their own darker-skinned countrymen. This Indian, peculiarly 
outraged, is not challenging the white man's racism as such. He is 
crying: "How dare you assume your air of Aryan superiority over 
me when I am just as Aryan as you, even more so!" This was the 
substance of the Indian claim in that 1923 court case to which we 
have referred, and it is still the substance of many an Indian re- 
sponse to American racism. Out of these assorted motes and beams 
comes no small part of the confused ill feeling generated by so many 
recent individual American-Indian encounters. 


THERE ARE PLACES in all of our minds where images sit tight, secure, 
immovable, like monuments on battlefields long quiet. They brook 
no challenge; we live by what they mean to us. In some minds this 
is the whole scene, undisturbed, impenetrable, unstirred by intrud- 
ers against whom all entry is barred. In most others, fortunately, the 

50 Times of India, February 6-12, 1955. 


neighboring fields of the imagination are open and lively. Here all 
the many images of varied ideas, experiences, and people seek and 
find their places, maneuver for position, struggle for status and 
primacy, jostle each other for the central spot like a cast of jealous 
actors on a stage. They can clash head on too, sometimes to a con- 
fused draw, leaving the scene a foggy maze of unresolved contra- 
dictions. But once in a while a single image looms ahove all the rest; 
the light follows it, and all the other figures grow dimmer, and all 
the clatter of contradiction dies down. Something like this seems 
to happen in a great many of the minds we are presently exploring 
when all this array of bizarre or grim or unattractive images of In- 
dians we have been describing is confronted by the single greater 
image of the figure of Gandhi. 

The Gandhi image is overwhelmingly triumphant. Only a few dis- 
sent. He is acknowledged as a man to be admired virtually by all, 
whether friendly to India or hostile, attracted by Indians or repelled 
by them. Freely or grudgingly, with or without reservations, even the 
most critical and the most prejudiced pay him some measure of re- 
spect. To be sure, the accents and stresses range widely, from the un- 
reserved to the perfunctory and even to the inwardly rebellious. Still 
there is a palpable weight of a nearly universal feeling that now 
leads even the most dubious man, asked if he admires Gandhi, to 

answer yes, but rather than no, because . There are very few 

who care little enough for social disapproval to reject out of hand 
a figure who seems to get identified with every nation's national 
heroes, every religion's saints and prophets, every man's desire to be 
good, or better than he is. 

To 144 members of our panel, the question was put: "Do you 
think of Gandhi as a man to be admired?" One hundred forty-one 
answered yes or yes, but; only 3 said no. Sorting out the traits and 
facets of Gandhi which commanded these reactions, we find a 
range that goes all the way from Gandhi the politician to Gandhi 
the saint. There were 8 who saw him as 

a skillful astute politician and negotiator; one of the cleverest, shrewd- 
est politicians that ever lived; a politician of integrity who knew how 
to transform principles into mass action; a politician who brought high 
ethical standards into politics. . . . 

Twenty-eight saw him mainly as leader of the struggle for freedom: 
a great leader of his people, of his country; worked incessantly, devot- 


edly, gave his life to the cause of Indian freedom; a tremendous leader 
who achieved British withdrawal and the peaceful liberation of India 
through the power of his personal influence on huge masses of people; 
one of the great political instruments of history, he moved more people 
in his lifetime than any man who ever lived . . . 

Thirty-four, as the symbol of nonviolence and spiritual force in pol- 

his doctrine and practice of nonviolence; impact of his spirituality on 
all men; universal idealist; symbol of moral leadership in human af- 
fairs; a revolutionary leader who placed high value on means as com- 
pared to ends; great religious leader, moral force; came closer to the 
religious ideas in which I believe; created the admirable ideal of lead- 
ership of the spirit; preached a social gospel; demonstrated by his whole 
life the power of an idea; achievement of political goals without 
violence was divine conception; his concepts were basically Christian, 
i.e., goodwill in action; he was a politician-saint . . . 

Forty-two who thought of Gandhi the man: 

his conviction, force of character; vision, courage, selflessness; stead- 
fastness; devotion, dedication, patience; intelligence, self-sacrifice; his 
personal charm, magnetism, his power to capture the imagination . . . 

and eleven as a transcendent religious figure: 

think of him in same way as Christ; almost as deviant as Christ; clean, 
great, like Christ; genuine saint who devoted his whole life to truth; 
combines George Washington, Lincoln, Jesus; one of the saints of the 
earth; most powerful spiritual force to appear on earth in 1,955 
years. . . . 

There is obviously a long and wide gap between the image of 
Gandhi as an astute politician and the image of Gandhi as the most 
powerful spiritual force to appear on earth since Jesus. But the heavy 
clustering of the large groups of individuals who admired Gandhi 
for his character, his identification with nonviolence, and his role 
as the successful leader of his country's fight for freedom establish 
the essential substance of his image. In the total of all our answers, 
there were 98 given entirely without qualification; whether as poli- 
tician or politician-saint or just plain saint, these individuals viewed 

Gandhi in a single piece. There were 43 who said yes, but and 

offered a great variety of afterthoughts and reservations. Some of 
these were reflections on Gandhi's political and economic ideas: 


his solutions for the country's problems were unrealistic; his social and 
economic views were contradictory; yes, as leader of the independence 
fight, but for his way of life? No! Rousseau, antimachinery, would 
have turned the clock back!; admire him but don't accept many of his 
ideas; don't agree with passive resistance though I respect it; Gandhi 
was a traditionalist and conservative, didn't really have workable politi- 
cal or economic ideas. . . . 

Some were oddly varying choices of the different Gandhis: 

admire him as a person but not as a political figure; as a philosopher, 
but not as a political leader; admire him much less as a human being 
than as leader of the independence struggle; for his morality, but not 
for his politics; as a formidable, astute, and courageous leader, but not 
especially for his spiritual qualities; an admirable but alien figure. . . . 

There were some specific doubts: 

the strange dualism about a man as good as he who was also a shrewd 
politician; a cross between Jesus Christ and Frank Hague, admire the 
one but not the other, think he damaged India in 1946; he had some 
less admirable qualities, as husband and father, for example; some 
theatrical exhibitionism, some stage-acting . . . 

or wondering half-acceptances: 

in some ways, of course. Stuck to his principles under hell or high 
water, can't help admiring this whether I agree or not, but a lot of his 
stuff was phony stuff for the masses, the business of salt, spinning was 
a lot of public relations fluff . . . 

or just plain wondering: 

his influence over millions, he must have had something on the ball, 
whatever it was!; just don't understand him; don't know what makes 
such a man tick; like Christ, not really of this world . . . 

or wondering half -rejections: 

don't think he is to be imitated; admire but don't adulate; wouldn't go 
for the idolatry of Gandhi that some people express. . . . 

These were all expressions of yes-but which still add up to yes. There 
were several yes-buts which really added up to no: 

yes, but he's beyond my comprehension, was hard to understand, for 
example, his saying: let the Japanese come in but don't cooperate. I 
couldn't go that far or rise that far. Just can't see it; yes, but less than 


Nehru. Like Gandhi's insistence on ideas, but he was a curious mix- 
ture. Don't like to be preached at by a man who took so long to get 
preached at as he did in sex matters, as he tells in his autobiography; 
he was a great man in a sense, a curious but not really an admirable 
one. His philosophy, i.e., passivity, breeds submission to totalitarian- 
ism. . . . 

There was i response, finally, which was clearly in a class by itself: 

I'm afraid so [i.e., that I do regard him as a man to be admired] but 
have my old prejudices. I thought that what he was about was ridicu- 
lous. Saw no reason why Indians should be independent. But of course 
it was inevitable, and Gandhi's accomplishment was really extraor- 

This brings us to the 3 lonely individuals who flatly and firmly said 
no, they did not admire Gandhi: a social scientist with some back- 
ground in India in Gandhi's time; a journalist with a China back- 
ground; an historian with neither. They said: 

Can identify with Nehru but cannot identify with Gandhi; am preju- 
diced against him, can't accept nonviolence, don't think it won India's 
independence, don't go for the "spiritual" approach to life; never suf- 
fered from the Tolstoyan school and it's surprising how much of 
Gandhi is Tolstoy, not worth much in troubled times, pacifism is a 
luxury of good times. 

But the rejections are so few and the qualifications so largely muted 
that they remain marginal, leaving the essential picture intact. Out 
of these interviews, taken as a whole, one gets a strong sense of the 
Gandhi image, motionless and slightly smiling, a face for the faceless 
mass, simply staring down all the other images of the Indians, all 
the fabulous, the benighted, the puny, the dark-skinned, the lesser 

This great and powerful Gandhi image climbed but slowly to its 
present eminence, and it climbed, moreover, right out of the troughs 
in which we have been wallowing. In the earlier years and decades 
of Gandhi's lifetime he appeared to many as the quintessential fig- 
ure of the puny Indian, ribs showing, naked but for a loincloth or 
draped in a dhoti. He was the odd, the strange, the incomprehensi- 
ble Indian, with his dietary peculiarities, his fasts, his mystic hold on 
the masses, his religiosity, his sainthood. He was everything, even to 
many of his Western admirers, suggested by the title Bishop Fred- 


erick Fisher gave to his book in 1932: That Strange Little Brown 
Man, Gandhi. He was also, to some of his opponents and critics and 
to many onlookers, not only puny and strange and brown, but comic. 
Typical American cartoons of the time show him as a ridiculously 
tiny figure, shaking salt on the tail of a huge and rather kindly 
British lion, or as an emaciated baby in a diaper being walked by 
a broad, harried, father-image John Bull, with the title: "Walking 
the Floor Again"; or again, he is a gaunt bony little figure perform- 
ing as a weight lifter, facing the obviously preposterous task of lifting 
an enormous weight several times his size which is labeled: "full 
independence." The cartoon is titled: "The Strong Man of India." 
Some Americans, especially religious liberals, had begun quite 

Walking the Floor Again 

Hungerford in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 


early to view Gandhi "as a saint a holy man, a great soul, compara- 
ble to Saint Francis of Assisi or even Christ." As he rose to the 
unchallenged leadership of the Indian nationalist movement, news- 
papers began to call him "a commanding figure" or even "the most 
amazing figure of the age." When he came more closely into view 
at the London Round Table Conference late in 1931, much was 
made of his "odd appearance and strange ascetic ways/' but a New 
York Times correspondent wrote: "Saint and social reformer, politi- 
cian and propagandist, he has now shown himself to be a diplomat 
with one of the subtlest minds that ever came out of the East." 
He was seen as a peculiarly skilled politician who was somehow 
bringing the whole weight of the religiosity of the Indian masses to 
bear upon the bonds of British rule. This was not always an admir- 
ing view. Some felt that his "nonviolence" inevitably bred more 
violence. Some of his more captious critics were calling him an op- 
portunist, more rarely a phony, and one American newspaper even 
called him, in 1931, "the evil genius of India." 51 

As we have seen, some reflections of almost all these views of 
Gandhi have survived and came to light now and again in the course 
of our current set of interviews. But where they were critical, they 
were in all but a few cases muted. There were always and there 
still area great many serious questions to be asked about the role, 
ideas, and impact of Gandhi: What was the real effect of his strat- 
egy of nonviolence on the course of the Indian independence strug- 
gle? What did it mean for the British, for the Indian upper classes? 
How did his social and economic ideas weigh against the needs of a 
modern India? What did his philosophy mean, for the Hindu, for 
the Christian, for the humanist, for the twentieth-century man in 
his world? What were the roots of the Gandhi personality? What, 
in sum, was the nature of the man and his impact? A serious ap- 
proach to these questions has hardly been begun, even now. Some 
of the answers are implicit in what has happened in post-Gandhi 
India (68 of our interviewees think India today is directed by 
Gandhi's influence; 53 think not). But in Gandhi's lifetime the 
logic of such questions steadily yielded before the aura of the man. 
The smaller, comic or odd, and more contradictable image of Gandhi 
gradually grew larger, more laden with the imponderable, increas- 

51 Quotations are from Harnam Singh, American Press Opinion About Indian 
Government and Politics, 1919-1935, Ph.D. thesis, Georgetown University, 
1949, pp. 386-405. 



ingly difficult to challenge, much less to ridicule. Gandhi pooled 
religion and politics in a manner disconcerting and eventually rather 
frightening to Westerners, who generally think of such a union as 
ideal but not very practical. 

Despite large public notice over the years, he remained a distant 
figure to most Americans until after the beginning of the war with 
Japan, when there was suddenly something dangerously less remote 
about the man who chose prison for himself and his adherents rather 
than join the struggle on any terms short of immediate freedom, who 
appeared quite serenely ready to meet not only British force and 
obduracy but Japanese attack with the same readiness to die un- 
armed, a test which never had to be made. But then came the great- 
est Gandhi of all, walking on his bare feet over the blood-sloshed 


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1949 


stones of Calcutta's streets at the height of Hindu-Muslim fury, 
bringing to a pause "by his presence the incalculably insane violence 
of the people he had not been able to win, after all, to his doctrines. 
This was the Gandhi who said with infinite sadness that he had lost, 
that he no longer wanted, as he had often said he did, to live on to 
the age of 125, and the Gandhi, finally, who was murdered by a 
Hindu fanatic in the ultimate irony of the history he had made. 
This was the Gandhi, as depicted in a Fitzpatrick cartoon in 1949, 
no longer puny, odd, or comic, but a giantesque figure looking down 
from the mists on the newborn Indian republic which the whole 
world by now saw as the product of his peculiar genius. It is this 
Gandhi, already a towering universal legend, for whom such general 
admiration and respect is now universally shown. It is piously shown, 
and piety asks no difficult questions. One interviewee remarked: 
"Gandhi is a hero to millions who have no idea of what he's really 
like." But others imply that the perceived greatness of Gandhi 
transcends reservation, inquiry, or disagreement: "I do not go along 

with many of Gandhi's ideas, but " 

It is not easy now to sort out and separate the Gandhi image 
from notions of the Indian independence movement in the minds 
of most of our individuals. For many the two are wholly identified, 
and for a majority of these the picture did not acquire shape until 
after the event. Only for a very few did it project very far into the 
past. Asked what events in Asia had first made a serious impact on 
them, only 4 persons mentioned the Indian independence movement, 
or the first trickle of memory of the name of Gandhi appearing in 
the press, the salt march and the civil disobedience movements of 
the 1920'$ and 1930'$. Americans in India and Americans at home 
had reacted quite differently to these events. American missionaries, 
as already noted, either adopted or adapted themselves to the British 
view; indeed the British required of them a formal pledge to this 
essential effect. The few dissidents who chose to identify themselves 
with the Indian interest remained mavericks almost to the end. The 
old guard saw Gandhi in the beginning as u a fanatic, a has-been, a 
man of violence, a reactionary, a Bolshevik/' 52 Bishop Fisher was 
still expressing a minority view in 1930 when he wrote: "Gandhi is 
living and acting the thing we dream of." 6 * On the other hand, 
those Americans at home who developed a sympathetic interest in 

52 Cf. Schmidt, op. cit., p. 199 ff. 

53 Crane, op. cit. r p. 127-128. 


the Indian struggle reacted out of the much broader "base of liberal 
humanism, to say nothing of the Spirit of 1776 and the strongly 
surviving bias against Britain, especially imperial Britain. 

Long before there was a serious Indian nationalist movement, 
William Jennings Bryan, passing through India on a world tour, 
publicly opined that Britain ought to give India back to the Indians 
and was angrily denounced by the British as a seditionist. A good 
many years later, but still before the appearance of Gandhi, Ameri- 
cans had begun to interest themselves in the Indian cause. During 
the First World War, the India issue was dramatized in the United 
States by the arrest and imprisonment, at British request, of a num- 
ber of emigr6 Indian revolutionists. Their cause was taken up by a 
small group of American liberals and Socialists 54 whose interest con- 
tinued and spread in the following years. The names of John Haynes 
Holmes, Roger Baldwin, Robert Morss Lovett, Norman Thomas, 
John Dewey, Oswald Garrison Villard, and others appear on repeated 
appeals for the Indian cause. Some of them formed organizations 
which devoted themselves to promoting the cause of Indian national- 
ism. A prolonged tug-of-war went on between these groups and 
various official, quasi-official, or wholly nonofficial pro-British spokes- 
men for the ear of the American public. Events in India spurred 
by Gandhi's civil disobedience campaigns commanded considerable 
attention in the American press. General interest remained marginal, 
but those few papers with enough interest to take editorial positions 
were, in the broad, sympathetic with the Indian cause. For most of 
them this meant agreeing with the idea of Indian freedom in prin- 
ciple while agreeing in fact with the British in most current particu- 
lars. Almost all news about India printed in American papers came 
from British sources, and this colored much of the editorial opinion 
expressed. At one end of the spectrum stood the few consistently 
pro-British papers, and at the other stood the liberal weeklies which, 
in the absence of adequate reporting, tended, in the words of an 
Indian study, to give the Indian freedom movement more "senti- 
mental appreciation" than "critical appraisal." M 

But the issue never became a major one for Americans. The 
Gandhi figure, though growing in stature, continued to be regarded 

54 Cf . Robert Morss Lovett, "The United States and India, a Footnote to 
Recent History," The New Republic, April i, 1931. 
sci Cf, Singh, op. cit. t pp. 232 ff. 


as odd, though often uncomfortably so. 56 This was the time of the 
cartoon view of the puny Gandhi David challenging the British 
Goliath. The sympathy went to David, of course, but the edge of 
ridicule was sharp enough and visible enough for Gandhi himself 
to be acutely sensitive to it. When Bishop Fisher urged him to 
visit the United States after he attended the London conference in 
1931, Gandhi reportedly refused because "he felt his appearance in 
America would only result in laughter." 57 In the 1930'$ the depres- 
sion at home rather fully absorbed the attention of most Americans. 
For those who looked abroad the rising Hitler filled much the larger 
part of the foreign sky. For the few who looked in the opposite di- 
rection, Japan's attacks on China were the focus of concerned inter- 
est. Not until Pearl Harbor rudely wrenched American attention 
toward the Pacific did India's fate become an issue of sudden con- 
cern to a much wider American public. The Japanese sweep through 
Southeast Asia early in 1942 produced visions of a Japanese march 
into India toward a meeting with victorious German forces coming, 
as so many feared they might, eastward from Egypt. The po- 
sition in India became the subject of proddings from Roosevelt to 
Churchill. The unprecedented missions to India of Colonel Louis 
Johnson and William Phillips on Roosevelt's behalf in those anxious 
months communicated a sense of anxiety to some of the newsread- 
ing public, sighting for the first time in the country's history the 

56 E.g., when Gandhi was jailed again in 1930, Will Rogers, America's top 
humorist-philosopher of the time, wrote in one of his daily paragraphs: "They've 
got Gandhi in jail in India. He preached 'liberty without violence/ He wanted 
nothing for himself, not even the ordinary comforts. He believed in 'prayer and 
renunciation.' Well, naturally a man that's holy couldn't run at large these days. 
They figured that a crazy man like that was liable to get other people wanting 
those fanatical things. Civilization has got past 'truth and poverty and renuncia- 
tion' and all that old junk. Throw those nuts in jail." Quoted by Singh, ibid 
p. 364. 

57 Schmidt, op. cit., p. 305. 

It would never occur to any cartoonist today to depict Gandhi as the odd, 
funny little figure which represented him so generally at that time. But the odd, 
funny little figure lives on, transferred from Gandhi to other Indian images that 
are still even now fair sport for the humorous cartoon strip. E.g., in a recent 
sequence, Al Capp's Dogpatch characters were being thrown into an uproar by 
a ; Pr of visiting swamis "Swami Riva and assistant Olman Riva" featuring 
Hindu magic" at a visiting carnival. They get into trouble because they magi- 
cally raise one of Capp's exaggerated hillbilly females fifty feet into air Capp's 
twist on the rope trick but forget the "proper procedure" for getting her down. 
I he interesting thing here is that "Swami Riva" is drawn directly from the 
Gandhi model of twenty-five years ago, a tiny squatting man, with sunken chest, 
a large head, and with horn-rimmed spectacles over a great hook of a nose See 
Boston Globe, December 4, 19 55. 


specter of military defeat. The Cripps mission, its failure, Gandhi's 
fast, the launching of civil disobedience, the veritable insurrection 
of August, 1942, all made India, suddenly, top news, anxious news. 
Gandhi's defiance of the British and apparent indifference to the 
Japanese threat was for a time almost as incomprehensible and an- 
gering to many Americans as some of the more recent acts and 
policies of Nehru. 

This turning of American eyes toward India is mirrored quite 
clearly in the opinion polls of the time. In all the crowded 1,911 
pages of Hadley Cantril's huge compilation of polls taken between 
1935 and 1946 there are only sixteen entries relating to India. Of 
these six are British or Canadian and the rest are American poll 
questions on the issue of Indian independence, the bulk of them 
between the critical months of March and August 1942, one again 
in 1943, then a last in 1946. The most remarkable figures shown 
by these polls are the percentages of a national sample of the Amer- 
ican population who between March and August, 1942, said they 
had heard or read about the independence negotiations in India: 
the range was between 69 per cent and 78 per cent, a degree of 
awareness common only to issues of the utmost public interest. The 
great weight of opinion, as shown by these polls, favored quicker 
British action in granting freedom to India 43 per cent for full 
independence (with a majority of these calling for immediate ac- 
tion to this end) and 37 per cent for immediate dominion status. 
Other views favored firm promises for postwar action. Only a tiny 
2 per cent opposed independence for India at that time or at any 
time. The next year, in April, 1943, when the feeling of pressure was 
still great but more familiar, a National Opinion Research Center 
poll showed 62 per cent favoring independence for India, though 
widely divided between those who favored it at once and those who 
were willing to see it deferred until after the war. Three years later, 
with the war over and the public preoccupied with much else than 
India, interest had flagged. Barely half of a national sample in a 
Gallup poll (48 per cent) said they had followed the discussions of 
the issue in India; and about three-quarters of these ( 32 per cent of 
the total sample) felt that India should be set free at once. 58 Amer- 
icans were still interested but were no longer anxious about the 
matter. India was, once again, rather far away. 

When independence finally came in 1947, and with it the parti- 
tion of India, all news about it was unavoidably dominated by the 

6 8 All polls from Public Opinion, pp. 326-328. 


tragic holocaust of Hindu-Muslim massacres with which that historic 
change was ushered in. The sympathetic image of Indians as fighters 
for their freedom was blurred in the terrible pictures of mutual 
slaughter that so deeply shadowed the transfer of power. The new 
image of the fanatically violent Indian in mobs suddenly overlay 
all the older pictures people had of the weak, unvital, unaggressive, 
passive, nonviolent Indian. The contradiction between the two was 
staggering and, to judge from the impressions of our present inter- 
views, has not even yet been absorbed or firmly placed anywhere in 
the gallery of Indian images. But none of these massacres of the 
nameless produced anything like the impact of the news, six months 
later, that a single burst of this same fanatical violence had ended 
the life of Gandhi. I happened to be in a small town far in western 
Kansas on that January 31. Even there the news, reported in huge 
black lines in the local paper and read out solemnly from the local 
radio station, caused an odd hush among people who could hardly 
have explained why it did so. 

Independent India rose in the wholly new circumstances of the 
following years. The image of Gandhi faded, growing larger and 
mistier as it receded. New in the foreground stood the much smaller 
and earthier figure of his successor, Jawaharlal Nehru, the fighter 
for freedom become the man of power, the new and for many 
Americans now almost the only identifiable symbol of the new 
India. New pictures were shaped out of the changed and changing 
setting in India and in the world. Around Nehru we begin to dis- 
cern the images of people trying to face gargantuan tasks of growth 
in an old land; images of neutralists in the world struggle; images 
of touchy, sensitive, difficult people emerging to meet Americans on 
the new basis of equality of which they had dreamed for so long. 
It was a meeting for which not many Americans nor many Indians 
were very adequately prepared by all that had gone before. 


IN THIS GALLERY of images, Jawaharlal Nehru is a much smaller, 
more human, more complicated figure than Gandhi, closer to view 
and better known. Compared to most other important world figures 


of our time, he is even almost familiarly known. A remarkably large 
number of those interviewed for this study met him and talked 
to him, either in India or during his 1949 visit to the United States, 
and thus have some basis, even if limited, for a direct personal im- 
pression. All have seen him pictured in photographs and cartoons, 
seen and heard him in newsreels and on television, or read about 
him in innumerable news reports, interviews, articles, and books, 
and perhaps most meaningfully of all, in books he has written about 

Like Gandhi, though for different reasons, Nehru commands enor- 
mous and sometimes adoring admiration, as a leader, an intellectual, 
a sensitive, complex, gifted, and even tragic man. Nehru may sym- 
bolize the conscience of the West for its past role in Asia; it is not 
easy to justify a history in which such a man could be so long im- 
prisoned or held to be inferior. But he has no saintly aura about 
him to deter criticism or temper dislike; many see him also as vain, 
arrogant, unwise, naive, or even plain foolish. Agreement with Nehru 
requires no spiritual commitment, scorn for him need not be de- 
fensive or disagreement guilty. By his own frank and self-searching 
accounts, Nehru always stood across a certain gulf sometimes a 
painfully "vast distance" from Gandhi, whom he revered but with 
whom he could rarely agree except blindly, a violation of reason 
that never came easily to him in all the long years of their relation- 
ship. The transfer of leadership from Gandhi to Nehru placed it 
in the hands of a twentieth-century secular-minded man, for Nehru 
is a citizen only of this world, subject to all the more normal falli- 
bilities as man, politician, and statesman. His ideas and acts as 
leader of India, and for Americans especially, his role as "neutralist" 
in world affairs, are matters of sharp, controversial, and often angry 
opinion. His influence over his own countrymen is great, but quite 
unlike Gandhi's; his impact abroad is subject to all the clashing 
views of contemporary politics. 

It is one measure of this impact that reactions to Nehru among 
Americans are so numerous, so strong, so varied, and often so down- 
right personal. Nehru had become a commanding figure in Indian 
nationalism, second only to Gandhi, long before he became known 
in any wider circles abroad, especially in this country. He came more 
insistently into the view of most of the members of our present 
panel only during the past decade, the period of his undisputed 
personal leadership of his country, the time in which he has come 


to personify India in its new relations with the rest of the world. 
Hence images of Nehru as an individual personality are now not 
easily separated from images of Nehru the man of power, prime 
minister of India, and Nehru the "neutralist." 

But the impress of the earlier Nehru the aristocratic rebel, the 
sensitive intellectual, the dauntless man who spent thirteen years of 
his life in British prisons and passed most of that time writing mem- 
orable and revealing books about himself and his countrylies 
strongly upon the fresher and stronger images of the Nehru we en- 
counter today. No important world leader now alive has given as 
candid and detailed a self-picture as Nehru did in those prison- 
produced volumes. 59 Only 18 interviewees spoke of reading any of 
these books, but many more, certainly, were reached by admiring 
review articles 60 and by the mounting volume of writing by Nehru 
and about Nehru in the periodical press over these years. 01 His 
own reflections on himself, on religion, on philosophic and political 
outlooks are the direct or indirect sources of many of the judg- 
ments many people now make of his behavior and his ideas. Here, 
on almost every page he ever wrote, are to be found reasons why 
his admirers think of him as intelligent, honest, committed to human 
emancipation, a man with a widely ranging and inquiring mind 
and spirit, a sensitivity mirrored in his face, and luminous gifts re- 
vealed in the rich flow of the English language which so paradoxi- 
cally became his own. By the same token, Nehru himself anticipated 
many of the misgivings that are now felt about him. Long before 

59 His autobiography, Toward Freedom, was first published in England in 
1936. Its first American edition appeared in 1941 and as of December 31, 1955, 
had sold 19,458 copies; The Discovery of India (1946) 13,555, and Glimpses of 
World History (1942) 12,095. Five otner Nehru titles, including several collec- 
tions of speeches, have had a total sale of 8,173, Figures supplied by the John 
Day Company, New York. 

60 Like these on Toward Freedom: "A many-sided personality who can turn 
aside from the heat and dust of political struggle to comment on the beauty of 
a glacier or to discuss a general philosophical idea/' Atlantic Monthly, March, 
1941; "Noble, temperate, serene . . . apparently effortless expression of truth and 
purpose." Vincent Sheehan in Books, February 16, 1941; "A synthesis of all 
the liberal traditions of the past and the best hopes of mankind for the future." 
Hans Kohn in Boston Transcript, February 15, 1941; "Liquid lucidity of its prose 
... a sensitive spirit whose integrity completely identifies him with the op- 
pressed. . . ." Christian Century, March 26, 1941. 

fi i Readers 1 Guide to Periodical Literature shows for 1929-32, i article by 
Nehru; for 1932-41, 5 articles by Nehru and 38 about him; for 1949-55, 10 by 
Nehru and 135 about him; for the year 1956, 6 by Nehru and 64 about him. 


most of his present-day critics, he was speculating about his vanity r 
his "formidable conceit/ 7 the danger of his love of power, his fear 
that "only a saint, perhaps, or an inhuman monster' 7 could survive 
"unscratched and unaffected 7 ' the adulation which became so big a 
part of his life. 62 

These attributes of the Nehru image impose a peculiar discomfort 
upon his critics. It is distinctly more difficult to see "foolishness" in 
a man reputedly so intelligent, "naivete 77 in a sophisticate, "oppor- 
tunism" and "hypocrisy" in one believed to be so deeply committed 
to the highest form of secular morality, to charge appeasement of 
antihuman totalitarianism to a man known as a humanistic liberal. 
To be charged with dishonesty or ignorance, he has to be seen as a 
"cheap politician" and not as the philosopher-statesman that his ad- 
mirers believe him to be. From all these real or fancied contradic- 
tions comes much of the defensive uneasiness of his friends and the 
acute irritation felt by so many of his critics and foes. 

The complexity of the reactions to Nehru among the members 
of the present panel emerges plainly from a sorting of the answers 
made by 156 of them to the question: Do you think of Nehru as a 
man to be admired? 

62 In 1937, Nehru wrote an anonymous attack upon himself in order to help 
prevent his own re-election as president of the All-India National Congress. He 
acknowledged authorship in a section added to the American edition of his auto- 
biography and included a long excerpt as an appendix. Some excerpts of this 
since oft-quotecl passage: 

"Is all this [his conduct in a crowd] natural, or the carefully thought out 
trickery of the public man? Perhaps it is both, and long habit has become second 
nature now. The most effective pose is one in which there seems to be least 
posing, and Jawaharlal has learned well to act without the paint and powder of 
the actor. . . . 

"Is it his will to power that is driving him from crowd to crowd and making 
him whisper to himself, 'I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my 
will across the sky in stars. . . / 

"He calls himself a democrat and a socialist . . . and yet he has all the mak- 
ings of a dictator in him vast popularity, a strong will, energy, pride . . . and 
with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt 
for the weak and inefficient. His flashes of temper are well known. . . . His con- 
ceit is already formidable. It must be checked. We want no Caesars." Toward 
Freedom, p. 437. "Today," said Time, quoting these words in a cover story 
(July 30, 1956), "Nehru is very close to being Caesar." C. L. Sulzberger quoted 
them once more, to Nehru, in an interview (New York Times, February 27, 
1057) and asked his present views. "It should have been perfectly obvious," re- 
plied Nehru, "that any man who detected in himself such character weaknesses 
could never possibly have succumbed to them." 


Admirers (Yes, with little or no qualification) ........ 41 

Friendly Critics (Yes, but with mixed feelings) ........ 49 

Ambivalent Critics (Yes, but really No; No, but with mixed feelings) . 44 

Hostile Critics (No!) ................ 22 

TOTAL 156 

Roughly partitioned, we have here 90 individuals in degrees rang- 
ing from the highly persuaded to the extremely dubious who show 
some admiration or sympathy for Nehru, and 66 who in degrees 
ranging from doubtful to vehement do not admire him at all. 

Attitudes toward Nehru do not always conform to attitudes about 
the policy of "nonalignment" (i.e., with either Russia or the United 
States) with which he is so closely identified. Some of the shadings 
in this relationship will soon become apparent, but there is, first, 
one rather simplified but quite direct bit of evidence which we can 
interpolate here by comparing the answers about Nehru to the 
answers given to another question: Do you think Nehru's policy of 
nonalignment is good or bad from India's point of view? The results: 

Good ....... 101 

Bad ....... 42 

A sorting of the two sets of figures produces the following results: 

Admire Nehru and approve idea of nonalignment ..... 75 
Do not admire Nehru but approve idea of nonalignment ... 26 


Admire Nehru but do not approve idea of nonalignment ...15 
Do not admire Nehru and do not approve nonalignment ... 27 

It appears from these groupings that there are 41 individuals who 
discriminate quite sharply between the man and his policy. But it 
must immediately be added that there is a big difference between 
approving the idea of nonalignment and approving the way in which 
Nehru is carrying it out. The fact is that a majority of those who 
approve the idea, including some of his admirers and almost all of 
his friendly critics, are unhappy with Nehru for being inconsistent 
in applying it, for failing to keep himself and India genuinely non- 
aligned. Most of them think that Indian nonalignment, wisely pur- 
sued, would be a good idea not only for India but for the United 
States as well. What worries most of Nehru's friends and angers all 
his foes is the way in which he seems to have let this good idea slip 
away from him. There are of course some ardent partisans for whom 


Nehru can do no wrong. There are others in this group whose view 
of Nehru sits in a frame other than that of current world affairs. 
But we shall discover that the man and his foreign policy are never 
far apart in the minds of most of these individuals as we move along 
the range of the attitudes they have expressed about Nehru, from 
warm admiration, through a variety of mixed feelings, all the way 
to cold antipathy. 

The Admirers 

The views of Nehru begin with those of a small group (12) who 
are most unreserved of all in their admiration for his character and 

Nehru is one of the three great statesmen of this century, alongside 
Churchill and Roosevelt; a man of great intellectual capacity, very 
high principles and intentions, great charm, and personality; man of 
great wisdom, integrity, dedicated to humanity, eloquent, volatile, sen- 
sitive; his extraordinary perseverance and qualities as an individual kept 
India from disappearing into xenophobia; captured the imagination of 
many people and reflects their aspirations; international outlook, pas- 
sion for welfare of people of India, devotion to peace, superb mind, 
able, astute, self-giving, one of the ablest men in the world, one of the 
few morally incorruptible statesmen. . . . 

To these add 11 more who also explicitly approve his foreign policy 

One of the few with a world view, playing an admirable role, integrat- 
ing, attempting to be a balance wheel; saying some truths about the 
Western role which need to be said and he's right about a lot of things; 
a brilliant man with distinctly pro- West leanings who's playing a smart 
game, I think he's right; admire him for his neutrality, his ability to 
face both East and West, and to push through his five-year plan. . . . 

Here is a fuller excerpt of one of these opinions: 

I have a high opinion of Nehru, who strikes me as being an intelligent 
man, acting intelligently despite the rabid Right-wing Senators in this 
country who have been yelling at him. I think Nehru is honestly dis- 
turbed by Communism, is opposed to it, though not as violently as 
we arc, but politically opposed. I would guess that Nehru's notion is 
to fight it, but not by a frontal attack, as we do. It seems to me Nehru 
figures that India has to be able to get along with Communist China 
in order to be able to venture to win the leadership of Asia. 


There are 18, finally, who admire Nehru primarily as the effective 
leader of a country that could not survive without his leadership: 

He is peerless as a democratic leader; he is the leader who can push 
India toward democracy, the personification of Indian nationalism; his 
selfless, courageous leadership gives Indians confidence and a sense of 
stability; has achieved much against great obstacles in unifying India 
and holding groups together; Nehru is the chosen leader of 350 million 
people. . . . 

The Friendly Critics 

Qualified admiration for Nehru begins for a first group of 16 
with the introduction of flaws perceived in the man, or a mild meas- 
ure of disagreement with his course: 

His is a genius, with blind spots and weaknesses; has integrity, strength, 
but shouldn't lose his temper; has qualities of greatness but is very 
egotistical; do not agree with all his conclusions, but we must realize 
that Nehru is keeping the nationalist banner in his hands and is keep- 
ing it away from the extremes, if Chiang Kai-shek had acted like 
Nehru, he might still be in power. . . . 

In the next 10, admiration becomes more marginal, doubts about 
him stronger: 

His quality is charism, not wisdom, I doubt his political realism and 
leadership; admire his technique as a political operator but not his 
personality; he is never strong enough to do anything but compromise; 
he is doing a good job of looking after India's selfish interests but is 
very opportunistic; he is playing things quite canny, I admire him but 
wouldn't want him for a personal friend. . . . 

Another 15, still friendly critics, are bothered by Nehru's 

inability not to make petulant, critical speeches; he should weigh very 
carefully his need to make arrogant and ill-informed statements about 
the United States; it would be helpful if he did not feel compelled to 
make condemnatory statements every other day; his speeches seern 
calculated to get our backs up. . . . 

And 8 find the contradictions in Nehru puzzling: 

Always did admire Nehru, but now I don't know, am trying to fathom 
what in blazes is going on in his head; am uncertain as to whether he's 
sincere in trying to steer a middle course and if he is well advised; his 
bewildering pronouncements are those of a man who is essentially a 


diplomat on a tightrope, though a patriot by his own lights; am not 
sure I understand his position, think he's playing a dangerous game; see 
in him ambivalence, calculation, emotionalism, dedication, he puzzles 
me. . . . 

The Ambivalent Critics 

As we move along this spectrum of gradually more reserved ad- 
miration, we come now upon 14 individuals who salute Nehru for 
many of the qualities already mentioned but who begin to chal- 
lenge, in a distinctly less admiring spirit, what they see as basic flaws 
in his thinking and especially in his view of the world. Typically: 

Nehru is a great man of action, but is quite arrogant and has a total 
misconception of America and American capitalism and its impact on 
people; was quite impressed by Nehru when I met him here, but think 
his mind runs on its own track and only sometimes is this the track of 
reality as I see it; Nehru is a thoughtful man, sincere leader, who con- 
tradicts himself by his own actions; always regarded him highly as a 
friend of democracy, though his recent statements make me question 
this; he is motivated by India's welfare and the rest be damned and 
this is something we ought to understand; Nehru inherited an impos- 
sible role along with Gandhi's saintly toga and has managed to hold 
India together, but rny concern is with his inability to see the differ- 
ence between the United States and the U.S.S.R. . . . 

Occupying the last stretch of the bridge between Nehru's admirers 
and friendly critics on the one side, and his hostile critics and foes 
on the other, are 21 individuals whose mixed feelings about Nehru 
are mixed to the point of genuine ambivalence. Nearly half of these 
(10) said yes, they admired Nehru, but then went on to express 
views about him in which any surviving tinge of admiration quickly 
disappeared; they really meant no, they did not admire him at all. 
Here, for example, was the reaction of an important publisher: 

Yes, he has leadership, rectitude, but he is twisted. I also have a cer- 
tain feeling of antagonism to Nehru. I try to allow for his life's experi- 
ence, but I think he's unrealistic. Talks pacific, but acts otherwise. 
When his own ox is gored Kashmir he uses the same weapons as 
anybody else. Nehru may be hypocritical, though a softer word might 
fit him better. Maybe he doesn't see it. I know he's a fine man, but he's 
annoying on personal contact, supercilious, chip on shoulder. Like a 
Jew always looking for anti-Semitism, he's always looking for some 



aspect of racial discrimination, he's color-conscious. I was ill at ease 
with him. 

Even more strongly mounting irritation shows in these remarks by 
an individual prominent in Washington: 

Nehru is a scholar and leader, going through the anguish of unify- 
ing a huge country. When he came here, I was tremendously im- 
pressed, found him pleasant, sympathetic, admirable. But in the last 
few years his policy has turned quite unrealistic. Have a great sense of 
hypocrisy as a product of his developing relations and policies. I find 
it damned annoying to find Nehru, who is so important to us and to 
whom we are so important, being so half-baked in understanding what 
this country is getting at. ... 

Personal impressions grow markedly less complimentary: 

he has some earmarks of being quite small potatoes, his ego is a little 
more obvious than it needs to be or deserves to be; always lecturing the 
West on moral force, but look at his position in Kashmir; Nehru is in 
danger of becoming too strong-headed and vain, a man who has gone 

New "York Times, 1955 


from being a disciple of Gandhi to having too much pride, he has 
become arrogant . . . 

and judgment of his policies still sharper: 

we cannot allow Nehru to get into the position of directing American 
policy decisions, he feels he can abuse us because he knows us, but is 
scared of the Communists and guides himself accordingly; Nehru has 
not followed a policy of neutrality, is not the No. i peacemaker, he is 
playing a double role, is intellectually crooked, a meddler. . . . 

With the remaining 11 in this group, we come to the first who said 
no, they did not admire Nehru, and then went on to express mixed 
feelings like these: 

He is a personal tour de force in politics, but I question how substan- 
tial his foundations are, I feel partly respect for him, partly annoy- 
ance, partly I fear his weakness; am repelled by adulation of Nehru 
but am equally repelled by the notion that he's like Nenni or Wal- 
lace; I don't think he would lie, but somehow I don't think he would 
tell the truth either, he has violence in him, and can be awfully unjust 
and prejudiced; I don't admire him, but don't agree with his critics 
either because they don't take into account the pressure he is under 
both at home and abroad. . . . 

Mixed feelings begin to disappear from the remarks of a final group 
of 9, one of whom, a prominent Washingtonian, gave this account 
of an evening's talk with Nehru: 

I asked him what he found lacking in American civilization. He said 
he thought we had a materialistic attitude, weren't sensitive to the 
things he valued. He seemed to me a man who could be intimate with 
masses but not with an individual, or at least not with me. What he 
got onto right away was Kashmir. He talked about it half-lightly, half- 
mystically. I found it difficult to understand. He didn't want to let me 
behind his fagade, his strong sense of privacy. I got the same sort of 
feeling so often aroused by Vishinsky, the feeling that he was role- 
playing. . . . 

Others in the group saw Nehru's limitations as crippling: 

He has great intelligence, so that I don't see how he equates interest in 
freedom with being so critical of the United States. If Nehru really 
believes the American people are eager to go to war, are trigger-happy, 
he doesn't know what is going on, is misreading the real danger and 
the real state of mind of our people; as an Indian I could admire him 


perhaps, but not as an American. He has a strong desire for personal 
power, but as to genuine and deep understanding of human emotions 
and world philosophies, I see Nehru as somewhat naive and willful; 
Nehru strikes me as another Jan Masaryk. I don't think he under- 
stands what he's up against. 

The Hostile Critics 

There are, finally, 22 members of the panel who are quite unre- 
served in their hostile criticism of Nehru, whether as man or as 

Nehru plays a power game like any other politician, takes a free ride 
on the prestige of Gandhi and the myth of the great spiritual power of 
India, am very suspicious of him; he can and does talk out of both 
sides of his mouth, i.e., on Kashmir and on the Chinese Reds, I think 
he is getting scared, trying to buy time, but I hope he will be replaced 
by others who know more about the United States; carries water on 
both shoulders, is naive, vain, ambitious, opportunistic; evasive, surly, 
never gave forthright answers, one of the worst hypocrites I've ever 
met; wishy-washy, no clear idea of where he stands, but has basic an- 
tagonism to the West and is playing into the hands of Peiping; Nehru 
is not honest, he is a fuzzy thinker, not really an idealist, just another 
practical politician keeping himself on top of his big clung heap; a 
neutralist policy can be canny and legitimate, like George Washing- 
ton's, but Nehru's is not, he is trying to be a peacemaker as well as a 
neutralist; I don't know how much fear enters into his policy, but 
through fluffheadedness he accepts the idea that Communism will 
grow more solid and less aggressive; Nehru is a tightrope-walking pro- 
Communist; he is an arrogant, anti-American, pro-Communist, high 
class, aristocratic, stiff-necked Hindu. . . . 

If we look back at the individuals occupying the various segments 
of this spectrum, we find that 

People with more personal experience in India tend to be 
among Nehru's admirers, or at least among his more friendly critics; 

Individuals whose Asian experience has related to China are 
not to be found among Nehru's all-out admirers (there was only 
one, a missionary), but tend to appear among his loss friendly or hos- 
tile critics; 

All of Nehru's all-out admirers are "liberals" while 17 of his 
22 all-out critics are "conservatives," including a notable clustering 
of what we might call our ultraconservative Right wing, including 


almost all the individuals in the panel who feel most strongly on the 
subject of American Formosa policy from a pro-Nationalist bias. 

But these divisions, while visible and interesting, are by no means 
clear cut. The large middle group of friendly and unfriendly critics 
cuts across all these lines, and among Nehru's most hostile critics, 
6 of the 22 are clearly "liberal" and 2 of these are individuals 
with extensive and sympathetic contact with Indian affairs. Consider 
this view by a well-known writer long identified by his strong sym- 
pathy for India and its leaders: 

I did admire Nehru, until 1946. Through his autobiography, his role 
in the independence struggle, he established himself as an attractive, 
brilliant, progressive idealist. But look at the things he has done since 
he got to power. He is moved by political expediency, is not always the 
idealist or man of principle. I now regard him simply as a politician. 
He is too vain, too much of an actor, too weak, and, I think, has a 
power lust. He is a transposed English intellectual, a Kingsley Martin 
in power. 

Or, finally, this comment, by a former high-placed government of- 

I am not an admirer of Nehru, though it took me a long time to con- 
clude that the idea of Nehru as a great dedicated soul, motivated in all 
his acts by noble and virtuous sentiments, was a myth. Nehru is really 
motivated by expediency. He was quite ready to use force in Kashmir, 
Hyderabad, but not in the larger context where we have to operate. If 
Nehru did previously possess these virtues, they are now corroded, 
changed. I now have a great mistrust of Nehru's leadership. There is 
too much information about the low level of his thinking and his 

The Alter Image: Menon 

Somewhere close to this end of the spectrum where Nehru's pol- 
icies are most strongly opposed and his personality pictured in its 
least attractive light, we begin to come upon the image of another 
Indian figure, V. K. Krishna Menon, long Nehru's principal roving 
ambassador and chief of India's delegation to the United Nations. 
Menon carries to a further extreme the policies and the personal 
traits for which Nehru is reproached by his admirers and attacked by 
his critics. As Nehru's alter ego, he is also an alter image, a figure 
upon whom Nehru's friends can project the stronger feelings they 


cannot quite apply to their hero, and in whom Nehru's foes find 
reinforcement and confirmation of their most virulent charges. 

The Nehru who begins to be seen by his critics as arrogant, super- 
cilious, close-minded, contemptuous of Americans, of American 
society, culture, values, and sincerity, is an image constantly super- 
imposed, as we have seen, on the Nehru known to his admirers as 
sensitive, intelligent, scholarly, deeply committed to democratic hu- 
manism. When Menon stands in for his mentor, there are no such 
confusing contradictions, no blurring of the picture's lines, for Menon 
is a man who has had a peculiar success in persuading almost every- 
one he encounters that he is really as obnoxious as he appears to 
them to be. Nehru's own speeches and statements often anger his 
foes and dismay his friends, but the charge of pro-Communism, 
anti-Americanism, or anti-Westernism in Nehru is always subject to 
some other knowledge of the man, his predispositions and his be- 
liefs. There are hardly any such reservations about the views, pre- 
sumably Nehru's, as they are represented by Menon when he speaks 
for his chief in public forums and international councils. There still 
seems to be some slight perplexity about Menon's personal political 
views, but he leaves no doubt at all about his acidulous contempt 
for everything pertaining to Americans and the United States. Of 
the 26 interviewees who brought up the subject of Menon, all had 
encountered him personally, but only 4 offered marginal reserva- 
tions in his favor. One was a top American official who had often 
faced Menon in UN debates: 

He's a man of elusive values, able, but not frank or reliable, you al- 
ways have to watch him carefully. He's always patronizing. He seems 
to have to keep on reassuring himself. But I can overlook this. He has 
courage and nerve and I rather enjoy tussling with him. He's never 

The other 3: 

A Machiavelli with a swelled head, though he has his good side too; a 
pretty vicious guy 7 but you have to respect him; I even like Krishna 
Menon, we do get along, though he does with very few. He is a prickly 
character, but we enjoy scrapping, he lectures me and I lecture him. 

These remarks fall somewhat short of being encomiums, but they 
are the only near-compliments to be found in our present record. 
The exasperation and repugnance which Menon appears more gen- 
erally to arouse are shared in this group by 11 who are among 


Nehru's most hostile critics and by 15 who can be classed as more 
or less friendly critics or outright admirers. One of the latter said of 

A devil incarnate. It relieves me to know that he lived most of his life 
out of India. He is vile in private relationships and in every possible 
way. I can understand ordinary anti-Americanism, but what disturbs 
me more in Menon are his personal traits and the terrible feeling that 
he is really sincere in all this. He has done enormous harm over here 
and I wish Nehru would send him back to India. 

Other views of Menon: 

More objectionable than anybody I have ever met in my life; a poison- 
ous fellow; rubs people the wrong way; always fighting to assert his 
masculinity, keen and lashing in a fight, a dangerous man; he was quite 
insulting to our delegates at the UN, I experienced it myself when I 
served there; a pro-Communist anti-American blackmail agent; Menon 
is actively inimical to Americans, he just doesn't like them; I feel no 
sincerity in him at all, can never believe a thing he says; Menon is the 
archetype of the kind of unpleasant people Forster described in A Pas- 
sage to India, glib, unctuous, self-righteous, arrogant; if Nehru wants 
to improve relations, let him withdraw the loud-mouthed anti-Ameri- 
can Menon. . . . 

Between 1955, when most ot these interviews were held, and the 
spring of 1957, when these pages were being readied for publication, 
the Nehru image and the Menon alter image were brought closer 
together. At the end of 1956, Nehru's admirers were badly shaken 
by his equivocations and delays in taking a stand on Russia's armed 
suppression of revolt in Hungary. At the United Nations, Krishna 
Menon voted against demanding Soviet withdrawal and abstained 
from a proposal to send United Nations observers to the scene. In 
those same weeks, Nehru, Menon, and the Indian government were 
unhesitating in their quick denunciations of Anglo-French and 
Israeli actions in Egypt. The contrast was a painful one for Nehru's 
American friends and for many of his most ardent supporters in 
India. The near-revulsion was enough, after the passage of several 
weeks, to lead Nehru to make a number of offsetting public state- 
ments critical of the Soviet Union. But an insensible change had 
occurred in the Nehru image by the time the Indian leader came to 
Washington, in mid-December, to visit President Eisenhower. In 
his host he met a man who had far outdone the neutralist Nehru 



with the evenhandedness of his moral indignation, directed at all 
ill-doers regardless of nationality, political creed, or condition of 
alliance with the United States. Nehru was in the unaccustomed role 
of moral-fence-mending, and he seemed to his hosts softer, friendlier, 
more responsive than before. During this visit, Krishna Menon, 
like John Foster Dulles, was kept designedly out of sight, since both 
men, it was reported, were "peculiarly irritating to each other's gov- 
ernment/' Nehru's visit remained friendly, therefore, even "reassur- 
ing/ 7 the Washington spokesmen said. 

But in January, 1957, the Kashmir issue was again before the 
United Nations. Menon, reiterating India's stubborn stand against 
a United Nations majority in a series of marathon speeches, brought 
a nearly universal cry from the American press: "Two-faced moral 
standard!" 63 At home in India, he became a national hero, and 
Nehru helped him win a seat to India's parliament and, in April, 
elevated Krishna Menon to the post of Minister of Defense in his 
cabinet. Menon now stood more prominently than ever at Nehru's 
right hand, and had nearly become a man of power in India in his 
own right. The space between the image and the alter image had 
distinctly narrowed, and this had come about, it seemed, not be- 
cause Menon had drawn any closer to Nehru, but because Nehru 
had drawn closer, or perhaps because he now looked less large next 
to Menon. 

Back home from his travels, Nehru had betrayed an awareness of 
how he had come to look abroad during these critical weeks. Ad- 
dressing a mass meeting in New Delhi, he said that his foreign 
critics were "happy because they think my stature has been reduced." 
But, he cried, "if I have any stature it is you, my countrymen, who 
have built it up and no outsider can detract anything from that!" 
And the crowd cheered. In one of his many searchingly thoughtful 
reports from India, A. M. Rosenthal remarked that much of the 
world seemed to expect Nehru to stand not merely for India's na- 
tional interests, but "for something a little extra." 64 This expectation, 
after Hungary, had shrunk, and it was by this much that Nehru's 
stature had changed, and that the difference between his image and 
his alter image had diminished. 

63 Cf. Life, February 11, 1957. 

^ i e4 ^T'i NeW J?* T imeS> Februai y 4> 195% April 18, 1957. Cf. A. M. Rosen- 
thai Nehru Still the Searcher/' New York Times Magazine, December 16 
1956, and "Krishna Menon A Clue to Nehru/' ibid., April 7, 1957. ' 



THESE LARGE and highly visible portraits of the arresting or the in- 
comprehensible Gandhi, the attractive or less attractive Nehru, or 
the repellent Nehni-Menon serve with remarkable fidelity as models 
for the more numerous and smaller images of the many Indians 
encountered by Americans in recent years. In most of these Indians, 
almost all the essential features except the greatness of the Gandhi- 
Nehru enlargements are reproduced, refracted, or fragmented. In 
the Americans exposed to all these smaller images, the range of 
reaction is likewise the same: admiration, respect, puzzlement, or 
antipathy, becoming only sharper, more personal, and therefore 
often more strongly felt. 

More Americans have met more Indians in the last dozen years 
than ever before in the history of the two peoples. There have been 
at least two distinct chapters in this brief history of encounters. The 
first was the massive movement of about 250,000 American soldiers 
to and through India during the Second World War. Perhaps as 
many as half of these remained in India for periods ranging from 
three months to three years. For the great mass of these young 
Americans, this was an ordeal. The wartime conditions, the tea 
patches and jungles of Assam, and the fetid slums of Calcutta were 
no breeding places for educational or elevating experience. All the 
stereotypes of glamour that might have been brought to India by 
these men were swiftly enveloped by the squalid reality. The Indians 
were the ivogs, 05 recognizably human only to the rare GI, India a 
country they were desirous only of leaving. 

A few individuals who shared that wartime experience in India 
acquired interests that have since shaped their careers; several of 
them appear in our present panel. But the great mass of their fellows 
seem to have left their memories behind them or let them dim away 
in the disappearing past. The experience has so far not only failed to 
produce any memorable literature, it has produced hardly any at all. 

65 Wog, sometimes translated to mean Wily Oriental Gentleman, is a British 
term many decades old, applied by Englishmen to nonwhites generally from 
North Africa eastward all the way to India. During World War II it was gener- 
ally adopted by American GI's in India, who kept it moving east until it met the 
term "gooks," similarly used to describe all nonwhites met in the Pacific area. 


Leaving aside those few works which deal with strictly military af- 
fairs or with soldiers only within their military environments, I have 
been able to find actually only three books which deal at all with 
the impact of India on Americans brought there by the chances of 
war. The only one with any GI flavor is a justly obscure account 
based on the letters written by an air force chaplain to his wife. It 
is called Lookin' Eastward A GI Salaam to India (by Thomas H, 
Clare, as told to his wife Irma M. Clare, New York, 1945) and it is 
believable only if it is read as an intentionally gross caricature both 
of its authors and its subject. It does, however, fleetingly convey 
some of the impressions of India common among American soldiers, 
including a description of the Hindus as "a subcultural species." A 
second, somewhat more serious literary fragment of this time and 
place is American Sahib (New York, 1946), in which John Frederick 
Muehl (later the author of the much more memorable Interview 
with India, New York, 1950) describes his experiences as a member 
of a volunteer American ambulance unit attached to British forces in 
India. It is primarily the young author's account of a rather shocked 
discovery of the mentality and habits of the colonial British. 

Of quite a different order is Edmond Taylor's Richer by Asia 
(Boston, 1947)7 in which an ex-correspondent of long European 
experience and a self-described "fantastic Occidental insularity" re- 
counts the "adventures of the mind" which befell him when he 
found himself transported on a military assignment into the strange- 
ness of India. Taylor had acquired from his study of the Nazis in 
Germany some lively ideas about the role of delusion in human 
behavior, and he had become sensitive to the tricks of the mind 
which were capable of creating mass attitudes and affecting the 
course of history. His adventure in India really started the day he 
caught himself "unconsciously creating a picture of the Indian peo- 
ple in the image of my bearer." This shocked him into a searching 
examination of "the pathology of imperialism" and led him on a 
quest through Indian politics, history, philosophy, and religion, for 
the sources of "the impression of monstrousness which India always 
produces on the Western mind." His restless and oddly unpeopled 
odyssey led him to some striking notions about both Hindu and 
Western "anticulture" and to the conclusion that the successful 
self-reassertion of India would be helpful to the re-establishment of 
"the tribe of man." Richer by Asia, essentially a work of contempla- 
tion, was surprisingly successfulthree printings and about 10,000 


copies 66 but it was mentioned by only 5 of our panelists as a book 

This was, as far as I have been able to discover, the sum of the 
literary legacy of the wartime experience of Americans in India. The 
impact of Americans on Indians or of Indians on Americans had 
not, as yet, appeared as the theme of any novel. Nor was there any 
other form of any nostalgic recall in film or in print, no Indian war 
brides, no softening in afteryears of the memories of pain. One mem- 
ber of our panel, a constant lecturer before public forums, reported 
running into echoes of the GI reaction: "I often run into the influ- 
ence of men who had been to CBI (Chinese-Burma-India Theater), 
all frightfully unfavorable. India was a stinkhole of a country they 
wanted no part of, seldom had a solitary good word to say about 
it." 67 

The second and still current chapter in these new American-Indian 
relations began after the end of the Pacific war, with India's cli- 
mactic partition and separation from Britain, its rise to sudden new 
importance in a world dominated by the Great Power conflict as an 
emergent nationalism on the democratic path, a new repository for 
the hopes so painfully abandoned in China. Several major newspapers 
and both major American news agencies continued after the war 
to maintain correspondents and bureaus in India. There was a 
marked increase in the quantity if not generally in the quality- 
of news reports from Indian appearing in parts of the American 
press. 68 The new events and this new American interest produced 
a brand-new literature of reportage from India by American writers 
commanding a certain serious attention from critics and readers, 
e.g., Margaret Bourke- White's Halfway to Freedom and Vincent 
Sheehan's Lead Kindly Light in 1949, Louis Fischer's The Life of 
Mahatma Gandhi and Muehl's Interview with India in 1950, all of 
which were mentioned by scatterings of from 6 up to 12 of our panel- 
ists, and Chester Bowies' Ambassador's Report, in 1954, which was 
mentioned by no fewer than 30. Other travelers' reports ranged 
from the kindly view of Eleanor Roosevelt's India and the Awaken- 
ing East (1953) to the more critical views of Saunders Redding's 

6tf According to Houghton Mifflin Company. 

67 Some vignettes of the GI experience in India will be found in Isaacs, No 
Peace for Asia, Chapter i, under the heading "The Wogs." 

68 Cf. The Flow of the News, International Press Institute, Zurich, 1953, 
pp. 50-52. 

Saul Steinberg drew the Indians as many "wartime Americans saw 
them, "no joy in life, beaten down . . , 

(From Saul Steinberg, All In Line, Duell Sloan and Pierce, New York 1946) 
and the Chinese, full of inquisitive and acquisitive vigor. . . ." 


An American in India (1954) and Carl Rowan's The Pitiful and the 
Proud (1956). There were small but highly interested audiences 
for some new Indian novels, a friendly reception for a sensitively 
admiring film about India, The River, great acclaim for visiting In- 
dian dance troupes, a certain vogue for Indian fashions, and even a 
small fad for Indian cookery. 

Aside from the daily flow of news which made the newsreading 
public aware of the phenomenon of Indian "neutralism/ 7 the major 
source of new American impressions of India in this period was 
the experience of encounters between Americans and Indians. The 
new relations established by the independence of India started first 
a trickle and then a widening stream of travel between the two coun- 
tries, a flow of official and private visitors. 69 

To their experiences and encounters with Indians in India, or with 
Indians traveling in the United States, these Americans have brought 
some bits and pieces of all the images of Indians that have so far 
found a place in our gallery. The notions of mystery and of fabulous- 
ness, the religionists and philosophers, the benighted heathen masses, 
the varieties of 'lesser breed/' and the images of Gandhi and Nehru 
have all mingled in the kaleidoscope. But with direct contact, the 
frame narrows. The visual and visceral impact of India and of In- 
dians in the mass is still powerful, but even the traveler in India 
experiences it only at a certain distance. The more personal and more 
typical encounter between Americans and Indians now occurs for 
the most part as a meeting between similars, between and among 
officials, diplomats, business men, scholars, educators, journalists, pub- 
licists, and politicians, for these are by and large the kinds of people 
who have journeyed between the two countries in the decade follow- 
ing Indian independence. Whatever else they glean from their 
travels, their sharpest personal impressions are likely to be of each 
other, of their own elite counterparts. 

This is all quite new to nearly all concerned: almost the only 
exceptions are a few scholars and the missionaries. The missionary 
has tended generally in the past not to mix with the Hindu intel- 
ligentsia, but this has been changing. In his schools in India his 
contact has been quite largely with Indians who belong to the 
educated classes, and especially since Indian independence, the 

60 Just over 6,200 American travelers visited India in 1953, according to In- 
ternational Travel Statistics, 2953, London, 3955. An Indian Embassy official 
has estimated for us that Indian visitors have been coming to this country at an 
annual rate of about 1,500. There are an estimated 1,500 Indian students in the 
united States, and an estimated 5,000 Americans resident in India. 


newer, younger missionary has had to become more a man of affairs, 
he has had to seek broader and more satisfactory relations with 
Indians on the new basis, much like the diplomat, official, journalist, 
or scholar. For the whole new body of contacts, there are few prece- 
dents in history to draw upon for insight, no literature to give any 
clues or illumination. We have little more than the raw material 
of what we have learned in this study: the impressions these Ameri- 
cans have had of the Indians they have encountered in this time. 

Before starting out among these unmapped crags and crevices, it 
might be well to check some of our bearings. The first is a reminder 
that we are dealing here with the impressions of 181 Americans. 
They all occupy important places in various spheres of our society, 
and 99 of them have been to India. They are in many important 
respects representative of their various environments. But in many 
no less important respects they remain 181 unique individuals with 
their own patterns of experience, personality, and response. The 
Indians who figure in their impressions are generally, as indicated, 
their opposite numbers in Indian society. If we were to hazard an ex- 
tremely rough guess based on the information at hand, we might 
venture to say that these impressions were gained by these 181 Amer- 
icans from encounters of longer or shorter duration with perhaps 
5,000 such Indians. These too would be unmistakably representative 
in many ways, at least of the small segment of college-educated 
leaders of Indian society. Equally, they must also be regarded as so 
many single personalities, particularly individuals about whom many 
particular things are said. The recurring patterns of impression and 
reaction will have to provide, as they unfold, their own measure 
of discrimination between individuals and types. 

There is also the bearing of the time and its atmosphere. Except 
for the small group of missionaries and businessmen and one or 
two scholars, all this contact dates from the Second World War 
and the great bulk of it since Indian independence in 1947. In much 
the smaller number of cases, professional, official, or other assign- 
ments have involved several years' residence in India, or constant 
contact with Indians in this country. Much more commonly, the 
contact consists of encounters during brief and swift journeys of a 
few weeks or months by Americans to India or by Indians to the 
United States. These have taken place in the atmosphere of these 
first years of Indian-American relations, an atmosphere neither salu- 
brious nor kind. There have been conflicts of interest and outlook 

3 2 4 


between governments, which have inevitably communicated them- 
selves to individuals, for they have been on political issues which 
are deeply felt by most of the people of the sort who figure in this 
study and whose reactions are whetted almost daily in the pages of 
the press and the periodicals which they read. A meeting between 
individuals strongly caught up in this atmosphere was not often 
likely to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

We have seen, moreover, that neither party to these encounters 
started with an empty slate. The Indian of this class had seldom 
acquired either under British tutelage or from his own experience 
an admiring or a friendly attitude toward Americans and American 
culture. On the other hand, the bits and pieces from the past that 
made up the characteristic American awareness of Indian and In- 
dians were often not, as we have seen, of a kind to flatter Indian 
sensibilities. There was, on the whole, little blessing in the portents 
for the encounters of these years. The measure of mutual regard that 
did develop out of so many of them can be gratefully regarded as a 
triumph of men over circumstances. 


Out of the notes of all the interviews, we sorted some 4,000 words, 
phrases, or remarks made about Indians. Like heaps of metal shavings 
clustering to the poles of a magnet, they paired off in diametric 
opposites along a wide range of reactions and attributed traits and 
qualities. Listed by the number of panelists who mentioned them 
and arranged by their contrasts, here is an initial picture of how 
they said they found Indians to be: 

Charming, friendly, hospitable . 104 
Easy to communicate with, to 

be with 64 

Generalized positive reaction 

("like, admire," etc.) . . .108 

Intellectual qualities, positive , 98 

Competent, able 65 

Spiritual, high-minded, moral . 44 

Westernized, in positive sense . 41 

Physically attractive .... 40 

Devoted, dedicated 32 

Articulate 31 

Sensitive 29 

Vital, good sense of humor . . 28 

Reliable and honest . . . . 22 

90 Unpleasant, uncomfortable to 

be with. 

52 Difficult to communicate with. 

44 Generalized negative reaction 

("don't like/' etc.) 

91 Intellectual qualities, negative. 
28 Impractical in workaday affairs. 
48 llolicr-than-thou, hypocritical. 
42 An ti- Western. 

35 Physically unattractive. 

r 24 Lacking social responsibility. 

119 Self-seeking. 

25 Garrulous. 

92 Superiority-inferiority complexes, 
52 Unvital, no sense of humor. 

01 Unreliable, dishonest. 


From these matched or unmatched pairs of views, we can begin 
to discover some of the varying features given to the portraits of the 
Indians encountered, as well as of the Americans encountering them. 
Some are uncomplicated examples of the influence of the general 
on the specific. Most of those, for example, who said they found 
Indians physically attractive were people who indicated that they 
liked Indians generally and most of those who did not like the way 
Indians look did not like much else about them either. This was 
even more explicitly true with regard to certain other marked traits. 
Thus we had 31 individuals, all but 3 of them warm admirers of 
Indians, who said they are 

articulate, fluent, facile, eloquent, vocal, fine conversationalists, able 
and outspoken debaters . . . 

while 25, of whom only 2 could be classed as admirers, described 
Indians as 

talkative, wordy, chattering, voluble, glib, garrulous, great foolers with 
words, talk you to death, argue uselessly. . . . 

Humor, on the other hand, was a somewhat more elusive matter 
than sight or sound. In this matter there is certainly a wider gap 
between, say, a Bombay intellectual and a Bengali farmer than be- 
tween the intellectual and his American counterpart. Here the differ- 
ence was likely to be not between Indian and American notions of 
humor but between the English and American varieties. Actually, 
most of those who referred to the Indians as humorless were talking 
rather about an absence of laughter, merriment, or joy of life, a 
certain torpid listlessness among the masses of people they saw 
around them in India as they traveled. Only a smaller number (23) 
said they had missed the quality of humor in Indians they had met 
and talked to: 

humorless; unable to laugh at themselves, didn't dare tell a joke for 
fear I'd be misunderstood; can you imagine kidding an Indian? 

Whereas there were 16 who had quite a different view, finding that 

have a good sense of humor; enjoy life; humor is more akin to the 
British; same as ours. . . . 

In the difference between those who saw the Indians as high- 
minded and those who saw them as holier-than-thou we come to a 


major issue. A special spirituality and morality is freely conceded 
to Indians by some admirers. On the other hand, the frequent In- 
dian claim to possess these qualities in some unique measure is 
perhaps the most aggravated of all the reasons others give for dis- 
liking the Indians they have met. From the first group (44) : 

Indians have a profound philosophical bent; deep, contemplative 
thinkers; more philosophical by nature than we are; are truly concerned 
with the idea of God, are in love with God; have a great radiant faith; 
are spiritually minded; take their religion more seriously; motivated by 
spiritual and religious considerations more than we are; are concerned 
with high moral principles in human relations; the Brahmin ideal is 
the irreproachable life, disdain for wealth and acquisitiveness; are more 
anxious to be good than many others; have great moral, ethical values, 
noble qualities; above our kind of materialistic culture; are more ideal- 
istic, more tolerant than we are; greatest honor in renunciation; bear 
life and suffering with fortitude. . . . 

But for others (48): 

the claim of moral, cultural, spiritual superiority is infuriating; holier- 
than-thou; full of offensive moral pretense; assumption of spiritual 
superiority is untrue; there is no link in action between their philosophy 
and their behavior; their moral and spiritual preoccupations are an 
empty shell; the great dedicated Indian soul is a myth; there is great 
talk about ethical-spiritual-moral values matched against great private 
yearning for material things; emphasis on philosophy and principle 
which they completely fail to follow themselves; hypocritical, ready to 
argue any side of a question; am annoyed by this harping on American 
materialism; they play up the line of deep humanistic attitudes, but 
are all things to all men; can and do talk out of both sides of the 
mouth; they are not sufficiently embarrassed by these disparities; the 
spiritual-materialistic business is a joke that gets me very sore; they arc 
unaware of discrimination in India or willing to rationalize it; are 
severely critical of our race problem while they are probably the most 
racially biased people in the world; don't know anybody who chases 
a dollar worse or does worse things to get a dollar than the Indian 
businessman; Indians take a free ride on the absurd Western image 
of the soul-like character of Indians. . . . 

These contending pairs are not at all as evenly matched as the num- 
bers suggest. The 48 individuals on the negative side of the ques- 
tion are all quite explicitly and emphatically repudiating what they 
see as specious Indian claims to a higher spiritual and moral stature. 


There is no such uniformity on the other side. On the contrary, a 
closer examination of the positive total of 44 rapidly melts it down to 
a much smaller number who seriously accept the idea of a unique In- 
dian spirituality. The total includes many who are placed here 
because they said some Indians are "idealistic" or "deeply contempla- 
tive" or "take their religion seriously." 

Not a single academic specialist on India nor any of the academic 
panelists with "secondary" involvement with India concede any part 
of the idea of moral or spiritual superiority in Indians. There are 
actually 10 individuals with extensive India experience included in 
the total, but an examination of what they said shows in almost all 
a much more perfunctory kind of acknowledgment: 4 businessmen 
who expressed a conventional kind of respect for other people's 
religion or religious attitudes, a diplomat who conceded the Brahmin 
"ideal," and 3 missionaries whose respect for Indian spirituality has 
a certain unavoidably hollow ring. Only 2 in this group showed 
stronger feelings, one a missionary-scholar who saw the Hindu re- 
form movement as the cradle of a true Christianizing of the country 
and its religion, and a woman writer who was deeply impressed 
by the idea of "right action" even though, she added, Indians don't 
live up to this idea themselves very often. Aside from these 2, there 
are perhaps 6 others who responded in some deeply personal manner 
to the nonrational, inclusive, or mystical qualities of Hinduism, 
some of them seeing it in the shape of a kind of universal religion 
with an essentially Christian spirit, some stating simply that they 
felt a certain affinity between Indian spirituality, mystical beliefs, 
or impulses, and their own. These were all individuals with very little 
experience in India and scanty contact, on the whole, with Indians. 

The weight of opinion in the panel on this subject is perhaps 
most clearly indicated by the answers to a specific question later 
in the interview which called for comment on a set of common 
Indian stereotypes about Americans. One of these was: "Indians 
are more spiritual, while Americans are only interested in material 
things." Only 6 individuals said they thought this statement was 
"justified"; 43 said it was "partly justified"; 100 said, often with 
sharp accompanying comments ("hogwash!"), that it was not justi- 
fied at all. 

Vivid as they might be, these paired groups of disembodied 
phrases, marching two by two into the ark of judgment, cannot 


convey the tone, tenor, and individuality of the separate interviews. 
They cannot show how these pairs mingled in constantly changing 
company in single minds. In our whole panel there were only half a 
dozen individuals who had nothing at all adverse to say about In- 
dians and only 13 who had nothing whatever good to say about any 
of them. Some talked of particular Indians, some of Indians in 
general. Some held their views lightly, some with passion. Some 
spoke out of long experience, some out of none at all. The shadings 
away from the most strongly felt views were numberless in their 
kinds, varieties, and combinations, depending on the meanings differ- 
ent people read into their experiences or the weights each gave to 
various attributes in his own particular scale of values. To retrieve 
these many individual varieties, we depolarized all the words and 
phrases, put them back into the sentences from which they had come, 
resettled them in the environment of each particular interview. Here 
they could recover the elements of tone and feel, manner, quality, 
and relationship which make up a total impression of an individual's 
attitude. Out of all this sorting and re-sorting, dehydration and re- 
hydration, we arrived at certain rough classifications of members of 
our panel in terms of their attitudes about Indians. We indicate these 
groups here by numbers which are not meant to be taken as absolute 
digits but as a means of suggesting their proportionate sizes within 
our panel. 

There were 51- 28 per cent of the whole panel who expressed a 
predominantly favorable view of Indians, We called them Pros. 

There were 73 with a predominantly unfavorable or negative view 
of Indians, 40 per cent of the panel, whom we called Cons. 

A third group of 43, or 24 per cent of the whole panel, held views 
made up of mixtures of Pro and Con, leaning in one direction or 
another, whom we called Mixed. 

There was, finally, a small clustering of individuals with views so 
particularized or so balanced that it seemed necessary to classify them 
by some criterion other than that of bias. There were 8 of these 
individuals, 4 per cent of our panel, and we called them Differ- 

One major fact about these assorted groupings leaped to view al- 
most at once: very few individuals with substantial or extensive 
experience in India appeared either as Pros or Cons. They bulked 
most largely among the Mixed and accounted for 7 of the 8 Differ- 


Brought together in a single tabulation, this profile of our panel 
looks like this: 

Experience in India 70 

Totd Extensive Brief None 

Pro 51 3 (6%) 21 (41%) 27 (53%) 

Con 73 4 (5%) 31 (42%) 38 (52%) 

Mixed 43 18 (42%) 18 (42%) 7 (16%) 

Differentiators 8 7 (88%) i (12%) o 

information 6 

Full Faces 

But to tabulate is to simplify. To put all the warts and irregular- 
ities back on this profile of the panel as a whole, we have to go back 
textually to the interviews themselves and quote excerpts long and 
varied enough to communicate the infinity of their mixtures and 
contrasts and qualifications. This we now propose to do, and at some 
length. We shall present them grouped by degrees of Pro, Con, and 
Mixed. Many of these passages may often also suggest why these 
particular Americans see their Indian counterparts in the particular 
ways that they do. Except for some identifying information, espe- 
cially about extent of contact with Indians, these excerpts will be 
offered without comment. As we rub, gently as we can, on the sur- 
face of what was said, let the portraits of Indians and Americans 
both come into view by themselves. 

Strong Pro (6) 

Here at the positive extreme are those individuals who are most 
emphatic and least reserved in their admiration for the Indians they 
have encountered. Five of the 6 are pre-eminent figures in their 
respective fields, 2 as scholars, 2 connected with metropolitan news- 
papers, and i a noted publicist. The sixth is an official of a national 
women's organization. None has been connected with India in a 
lifetime career sense; in fact, for all of them contact with India and 
Indians has been a quite marginal experience. Three have never been 
to India at all, two have visited briefly, and one spent nearly one year 
in the country on an academic assignment. The latter said: 

70 As previously defined, "extensive" means primary career involvement. For 
the present purpose we have added in some with "secondary" experience with 
India which has been relatively substantial, involving some years' residence in the 
country, as contrasted to the "brief" experience of a few months or weeks. 


Educated Indians are almost carbon copies of educated Westerners. 
They have the same perspectives. Their attitude toward their own 
culture is about like mine toward my own. They have great aesthetic 
and intellectual interests, are eager for all the West can offer. We 
mutually appreciated our cultures and felt the similarities outweighed 
the differences. There was charm, gentleness, humor, very little fencing 
for position. In the United States you are always fencing not to put 
your foot in it. In India they said clearly what they think. Many 
seemed almost British, talked British English, had British ways of 
academic thinking and working. We talked of philosophy, architecture, 
sculpture. I made a lot of good friends. Those I met were eagerly pick- 
ing up as much Western social science and psychology as they could. 
Communication was clear and full. I always got intelligent questions 
from student groups. Some students asked me about anti-Semitism, 
Negroes, etc., but most of the heckling was moderate. 

The second scholar reacted more explicitly on a somewhat different 

I admire their sensitivity, their great awareness of you and your 
spirit. Many have the qualities I associate with sensitive women, that 
is, the ability to listen actively, not only on the surface but in depth. 
This is rare, but less rare in Indians. ... I am attracted by the idea of 
a great radiant faith that I associate with Indians. The fact that they 
don't kill the cows despite their economic need to do so impresses me. 
They have great moral and ethical values, a long historical view. I 
think of their traditionalism as benign. Perhaps I see through Western 
manifestations of this kind of thing because I know it better, but 
somehow I think of nonviolence as being integrated in the Indian tra- 
dition, so that outbreaks of violence acquire a schizophrenic character. 
... I haven't actually met many Indians of this spirit. It is more a 
collective idea I have, an emotional feeling associated with Gandhi and 
with what I think of as the fundamental Indian attitude to man. I do 
not consider myself governed only by rational impulses. . . . 

A similar accent appears in both newspaper editors. The first: 

I like Indians enormously. Always have the greatest sense of affinity 
with what seems to be the Indian way of looking at things, i.e., a neu- 
trality that views things as from a considerable distance. I see an af- 
finity between Nehru and Woodrow Wilson. . . . Gandhi was always 
vivid to me, made sense to me. The Indian type of pacifism accepted 
all the consequences, while Western pacifism always seemed more 
sentimental. Hinduism seems to me free of sentimentalism, while 


Christianity is full of it. That is why I have always thought I would 
fall in love with India. It responds to some of my own basic tendencies. 

And the second: 

Remarkable cultural richness, cultivated people in depth. . . . I'm 
probably a curious kind of mystic myself, so we do get some com- 
munication. I try to rationalize my religious concepts, but I do believe 
all reality is spiritual, so obviously there is a certain bond between me 
and them. I see Gandhi as a most realistic mystic. . . . 

The focus of the publicist is quite different, his experience with In- 
dians occurring almost exclusively in a political context: 

I think of them always as individuals of all sorts. My interests have 
always been primarily political, but have had warm personal friend- 
ships as well as a political bond. The Indians can be relied on to take 
the most advanced view on human rights, colonialism. They are the 
strongest and most insistent in these matters. . . . About Indian intel- 
lectuals, a lot of my friends don't like the Cambridge-Oxford veneer. 
I do hear of rudeness, argumentativeness, an air of superiority. But 
this has not been my experience. They arc plain-spoken people, much 
less likely to be politic, argue with you more quickly, and this is thought 
to be a display of superiority. I think a lot of Americans are like this 
too. . . . 

The one woman in the group comes closest to having an almost 
totally undiscriminating attitude. Pier experiences occurred in one 
brief visit to India on an exchange mission: 

I loved them very much, intelligent, stimulating, love to talk, very 
articulate, love to argue. I enjoy their argumentativeness. Friendly, 
wonderful, interesting people. Very philosophical, always challenging 
our materialism. Village workers, imbued with great enthusiasm, doing 
all kinds of exciting things. Indian art is beautiful. Indian religion a 
liberal kind of thing, not at all dogmatic, the required things about 
food and cleanliness all seemed very practical to me, all sensible 
rules. . . . 

It is worth adding here, if only parenthetically, that of these six in- 
dividuals who liked Indians so well, three did not like the Chinese 
at all. 

Moderate Pro (25) 

The person with moderately positive views about the Indians is 
usually somewhat less emphatic in his admiration, or begins to 


introduce some qualifying impressions on the negative side, or seeks 
to counter more hostile views by offering explanations. Among these 
25, we find only three with relatively extensive experience in India, 
a scholar and two businessmen. One of the latter makes a distinction 
between Indian types that occurs quite often in these interviews: 

I have intense admiration for the Indian as a gentleman, adminis- 
trator, and businessman. The men I met would compare very favorably 
indeed with the better-than-average in the United States. Integrity is 
not one of his greatest virtues, but when the Indian businessman gives 
his word, clearly understood, I'd just as soon deal with him as with 
anybody. The ICS [Indian Civil Service under the British] people are 
a fine able group of men, but unfortunately they are a dying species. 
People now being trained may not have the breadth of vision they 
acquired under British training. The politician is a quite different type; 
I find myself opposed to him most of the time. . . . Many things In- 
dians do, of course, are downright filthy. Betel-chewing is repulsive as 
the devil, even in the nicest friend. I also didn't like the servants' atti- 
tude that the European is fair game for cheating. . . . 

The second businessman, a banker: 

Excellent to do business with, proud, honor their loans, could almost 
always depend on their reliability. Almost in the same class with the 
British, whom I put at the top as to reliability of the spoken word. 
... Of course there was the caste system and all that, which I guess 
India will outlive. After all there are caste systems all over the world, 
even here in our own country. I must say, however, I never really had 
a great deal to do in any very intimate way with Indians and those we 
did business with were necessarily highly selected. 

The scholar takes a friendly view, low-keyed and quite impersonal: 

Of course there are as many SOB's among Indians as in my father's 
Masonic lodge. Lots of misunderstandings, but all minor. Some showed 
bad manners, and here and there, like anywhere else, a few stupid and 
unintelligent people. But I found Indians always receptive and always 
had good experiences. They are articulate and friendly, always ready 
to share food and shelter all over India. . . . 

Among the 9 moderates who have toured in India briefly in their 
various professional capacities, a Midwestern newspaper editor said: 

The spiritual side of many Indians I have met has impressed me and 
I have liked most of them. My own Quaker background helps me ap- 
preciate the Gandhi point of view. One Indian I know is a heel, intel- 


lectually dishonest, but he is so untypical that he's irrelevant. I think 
them attractive, but nearly all people seem so to me on one ground 
or another. Among some Indians I have noticed a certain touchiness, 
chips on their shoulders about their national or cultural superiority. 
But I understand this as part of their present situation. It didn't bother 
me greatly. I don't go in for strong emotional feelings about people. . . . 

A well-known writer mixes some of the same views with a rather 
stronger emotional ingredient: 

Of course I know that many people have said they strongly dislike 
the Indians. I find this especially true among the news people. I have 
thought sometimes this was true because the Indians have not put out 
for them the way other [Asians] have. They expected the Indians to 
come to them, and they haven't done so. Of course there is a lot that 
feeds this feeling. India is messy, Indians are more guarded, and of 
course there is too this business of Indian arrogance. I encountered 
plenty of it, but it seems to me quite obvious that it is a product of the 
imposed sense of inferiority against which so many Indians are still 
struggling, and when you have been kicked around as much as they 
have been, how can you blame them for reacting this way? I have 
found the approaches really open if you persisted. As far as I am con- 
cerned, I like Indians as I like Chinese or Japanese or anybody else for 
that matter. . . . Actually I am a bad person to ask about a thing like 
this because I am probably the most undiscriminating person in the 
world when it comes to liking people. I will admit often being irritated, 
but even with those who got me very mad, I found I could break down 
the hostility and achieve some friendly mutuality. . . . 

Or this from an economist who once taught in a missionary college 
in India: 

They are intellectually brilliant, smarter, cleverer, sharper than 
American students. Some strange contradictions, highly trained medi- 
cal men tolerating old superstitious practices in their own homes. This 
led to the death of one doctor's wife in childbirth. . . . They suffer 
from inferiority attitudes, have strong irrational reactions to any critical 
statements about Indian things, extreme touchiness. . . . Often this 
made for a real problem in communication which bothered me, puz- 
zled me, but gave me feeling of sympathy when I came to understand 
it. The superiority-attitudes of some of the missionaries made me feel 
almost the same way as the Indians did. 

Finally a Catholic writer: 

Ones I've seen are all extraordinarily high-class people. Of course, 


they were all Catholics, so they had their religion in their favor as far as 
I was concerned. . . , But I can see where I would like Indians less if 
I knew more of them. I think their greater knowledge of English lets 
the differences come through more easily. Since they know English, we 
expect them to be less different than they are. . . . But those Fve met 
are well educated, gentlemanly. I think of Indians as quite spiritual, 
with deep-seated traditional beliefs and practices. I never heard of any 
common immorality among them, like you hear that Greeks are slip- 
pery customers. . . . 

Mild Pro (21) 

The quality of "mildness" can be simply one of mild and friendly 
acceptance of interesting people briefly encountered, as in the case 
of a Chicago editor: 

The Indians we see are intelligent, sophisticated, self-possessed, and 
like people generally, I find them attractive enough . . . 

or a Midwestern public opinion specialist: 

My impression is of people well poised, quite articulate, well edu- 
cated, mild, neat, courteous, college-trained, just like their similars 
here in America, just like you and me . . . 

or this Washington correspondent who sees Indians there frequently: 

I find in them a high degree of intellectualism. Have often argued 
with them over pacifism or foreign policy. They are brilliant arguers 
and I generally like them. Disagreement has nothing to do with 
whether I like or dislike anybody. I guess I like people generally. I have 
trained myself not to have generalized opinions, and I am quite aware 
that all the Indians I have met have been of a particular group, all 
cultivated and extremely articulate. 

A more cautious and somewhat more critical detachment occurs in 
the remarks of 2 Negro panelists, both prominent publicists. The 
first introduces an element we shall encounter in stronger terms later 

Indian visitors I see now tell me the British taught the Indians to 
keep away from the American Negro, but now that India is free this 
attitude is changed. Those I've met seem quite intelligent, interested, 
proud of their country, assured, confident. They also have this color 
identification on a global scale. That's why they come and look us up. 
They deny that a greater value is placed on a fairer skin in India, al- 
though I had recently read about internal color difficulties in India. 


But the Indians I have met are pleasant enough on casual acquaint- 
ance. Who knows what might develop out of closer knowledge? 

The second, a major national figure in race relations affairs, carries 
us to the bridge between those with mildly positive views and those 
who begin to be more clearly mixed: 

Much impressed with them. They seem competent, intelligent. 
Educated like the English and get more maturity and knowledge out 
of their education than we do. They seem to be pretty stubborn in 
their conviction that the plight of the Negro in the United States is 
very much worse than we say it is. They insist, despite what they see 
with their own eyes. They seem pretty thoroughly indoctrinated before 
they get here, and it's pretty difficult to root out a lot of things. They 
may not always be wrong. There are some things, perhaps, to which 
the American Negro has adjusted so far that he thinks them unim- 
portant. Of course when you try to talk about Untouchability, they 
bridle right away. People are pretty much the same they like to see 
what's wrong in the other fellow's back yard. I never heard any Negroes 
complain about treatment they got in India, but they all report the 
same stubborn refusal to believe the facts of Negro life in the United 
States as Negroes describe them. I spoke to some Indian students once 
who accused me of being "paid by the State Department" for saying 
what I did. They simply cannot understand the diversities of this 
country. . . . 

Mixed Pro (18) 

A "Mixed" view in what the phrase itself implies: a set or blend 
of contrasting or differing observations and reactions. It marks out 
traits in different individuals or distributes them to types or groups. 
It usually has more than one focus, distinguishing more clearly 
among personal or emotional, or intellectual, political, or religious 
reactions at varying levels. It contains some mixture of Pro and 
and Con. The Mixed view usually has a great deal more to go on 
and is therefore almost always associated with some greater measure 
of experience. As our previous nose-counting has already shown, the 
43 grouped as Mixed include virtually all in the panel with substan- 
tial experience in India and about half of those who have at least 
visited India more or less briefly. 

Among these 43 there is a first group of 18 whose mixtures of views 
retains a certain bias toward the Pro. Among these there are only two 


who have never visited India. One is a social psychologist who is 
often visited at his university by Indians working in the same field: 

Little as I know about India, I am pretty sure that the Indians I 
see have very little more contact with the people in the lower sections 
of their own society than I have, and I simply suspect their judgments 
where these people are concerned. I feel they do not really reflect 
India to me. I usually get a feeling of competence and charm from the 
visitors I see. My only negative reaction is to some of their views. I 
feel that they are unrealistic, that they do not realize the implications 
of modern technological development. I feel a certain complacency in 
these people about their own social responsibility. I mean by this that 
if I were an Indian I think I would be lying awake nights thinking 
about what I as a social scientist could best do to help cope with our 
problems. Nevertheless I liked them immensely. . . . 

The other nontraveler is a former government official of high rank 
who encountered Indians frequently in various international bodies: 

They are as diverse as we are, more so. I do get an impression of 
considerable unrealism from my experience with them in the last five 
or six years in UNESCO and elsewhere. Radakrishnan, for example, 
was just as unrealistic after as he was before his experience in the Soviet 
Union. There is a disconcerting vein of unrealism in their general 
line of argument about the Communist world. In other matters I feel 
a blend of practicality and fuzziness. ... I am always quite comfortable 
with Indians. They seemed quite straightforward, even as I tried to be. 
Always seemed truthful to me. In official contacts less so, but then that 
is generally the case in official relations. . . . 

There are seven in this group with brief experience in India. One 
is a Negro sociologist: 

I liked the ready friendliness, even when there were disagreements. 
But what I disliked was an unreasoning hostility to America, especially 
since I moved only among intellectuals. There was much stress on 
color, partly a reaction to me as a Negro, but this was common with 
everybody. I would often refer to newspaper advertisements seeking 
brides of "a wheatish color" or "clear light complexion/' They would 
insist this was like Americans preferring blondes or brunettes, not a 
matter of color discrimination. Of course among American Negroes too 
we have some attitudes like this. I don't know whether I found their 
answers reasonable or not. They certainly took a self- justifying atti- 
tude. . . , 


A Jesuit missionary official: 

A great deal of friendliness and hospitality in my brief contact. But 
I felt a certain difficulty in getting my own point of view across to 
them. They seem to have been nurtured on some sort of party line. I 
found the same opinions, the same way of looking at things and at cur- 
rent political problems. This struck me because Hindus are supposed 
to be so tolerant of other opinions and this behavior was quite a con- 
tradiction of this idea. I felt irritated at times, though I tried not to 
show it. I rather liked the people I met as individuals. 

Among these Mixed Pros we also find eight persons with extensive 
India experience. These included an anthropologist who said: "I do 
not separate personal from professional qualities/ 7 And an economist: 
"With Indian economists I feel much more common ground on a 
professional basis, while among noneconomist Indians I have a 
certain feeling of apple-polishing/' A political scientist in this same 
group was a good deal more willing to react to his Indian encounters 
as human experiences: 

I found them all very full of themselves and their problems, but 
extremely friendly, frank, and open. No hesitation about criticising the 
United States and Americans. In Europe people do not do this until 
they are more familiar with you. The students were argumentative but 
not very substantial. I was shocked at their attitudes toward their own 
people. One young official said: "Any Indian who can't speak English 
has nothing worthwhile to tell you." I felt a deep gulf between the 
educated people and the mass. They were much closer to me than they 
were to their own lower classes. . . . Servants jumped up for high offi- 
cials and for me too without even knowing who I was. These elite 
attitudes and relationships are very dangerous. Could lead to Fascist 
attitudes about the dumb masses. ... In manner of judgment, the 
students were quite impersonal. I had no complaint about manners, 
but they seemed to need very little basis in fact for their statements. 
Many had absorbed elementary Marxist theory and held rigid and for- 
malistic stereotypes in their minds instead of ideas. I often felt their 
antagonism was based on envy of our wealth. I tried to put them 
straight with facts about U.S. poverty, slums, struggles, unions. They 
had no picture of this at all, and the information did not appeal to 
them. As people, I reacted very favorably to them. Their open frank- 
ness appealed to me. I note certain differences between Indians in the 
United States and Indians in India. Like almost all people, they will 
defend abroad what they will attack at home, But in India I always felt 
they were quite sincerely frank. 


We encounter missionaries for the first time in this group. They 
really belong in a class by themselves in this panel, if only because 
they have generally lived in the different milieu of the Indian Chris- 
tian community and because they have had a much longer history 
of evolving attitudes and experiences. Here are samples from this first 
group which expressed the most favorable views about Indians of any 
given by India missionaries in this study, first from the remarks of an 
older man who originally went out to India, rather reluctantly, in 

We were pretty isolated in a small place. Knew our students and 
faculty and some people in town. They varied so much, as people would 
anywhere. Friendliness and courtesy everywhere. Ran into dishonesty 
and lack of punctuality but when I came home after my first term, I 
found the same things here. Our servants were faithful and reliable, 
dishonest, but very disarming about it. Otherwise all degrees, quarrel- 
some and meek, honest and dishonest, devoted and not so devoted. 
Our Indian faculty did not contribute much to our curriculum but 
some of them had keen minds, intensely logical, and marvelous mem- 
ories. One was very difficult, very touchy, would fly off the handle if 
he thought he was slighted. I was politically unsympathetic in the 
beginning toward Indian aspirations for freedom but began to change 
in the mid^o's. Thought of Gandhi as a politician but came to think 
of him later as combining social responsibility with political acutcness. 
Indians today try to compensate for injuries to their pride and this 
leads to some amusing claims, especially about Hinduism. That is 
why so many students who come to the United States are so self- 
assertive and, I understand, make themselves obnoxious. 

Another prominent missionary figure who spent twenty-five years in 

I liked the farm life; I think of some devoted Indian pastors and 
their infinite patience. The Christians I dealt with were as potentially 
able as anybody. Limited by their social heritage but not by anything 
innate. Their caste system leads to group conflicts and tends to create 
inequities and nepotism. . . . Most of what Katherine Mayo wrote was 
true, but too selective. She played up the seedy side and overlooked the 
nobler aspects. I did not like the dirt, smells, sordid surroundings. 
These are all physical, but physical facts get attached to men too. Often 
I felt I did not know what Indians were thinking about, didn't know 
what to expect. Their inscrutability may have been a matter of lan- 
guage or of difference in social, economic, and religious backgrounds. 


It all added up to a lack of understanding gradually dispelled by more 
contact and knowledge. 

Finally, a younger missionary who spent his career years in India 
overcoming prejudices: 

Although to begin with I was pro-British, I gradually became very 
sympathetic to the nationalist cause. Had thought of Gandhi as some- 
thing of a schemer, but as time went on my attitude changed. ... I 
expected the villagers to be hostile, instead they were hospitable. 
When I went to India I expected to find many abhorrent things of 
which I had heard and read, snake worship, extreme asceticism. But 
they did not upset me as I expected. I kept an even temper in the face 
of these things. I did feel a strong sense of injustice to the outcasts. Am 
still disturbed by the fact that many Indians can combine an en- 
lightened approach and superstitious practices. College graduates in 
cow protection societies! Always baffled me. On the other hand, saw 
good features in the joint family, in the social cohesion provided by 
the castes in some respects, in the fine family relations. I am still an- 
noyed by the Indian habit of bringing outside influence to bear on 
you if they want something; some of our missionaries have adopted 
this habit. But I liked their friendliness, always had agreeable relations 
with Indian neighbors, never had a bad moment with an Indian. . . . 

The last of our Mixed Pros is a noted writer on international affairs 
whose focus is political with strong emotional and rather personal 
biases. His views, which bring us close to many which will feature 
more largely in the more negative attitudes to follow, are certainly 
the most fully stated: 

I like Indians. They have interesting minds. There is a quality of 
loveliness among them, a mellowness, a lack of bitterness among the 
people, a kind of softness, gentleness, meekness, which I find most 
attractive. Many of them are limited by their sensitive nationalism, and 
suffer from a sense of inferiority and the compensations they seek for 
it. Some are easily wounded. Others are one-sided, superpatriotic. 
Occasionally they are arrogant. But even in the same person who is 
arrogant and narrow, there is often a kind of tolerance. They do seek 
a greater inclusiveness of points of view. Many have been touched by 
Gandhi, though not all arc Gandhian in any full sense of the term. 
Both the good and bad qualities seem to me to be very specially Indian. 
There is more of all these things in India than elsewhere. The negative 
qualities arc more in evidence among upper-class officials and intellec- 
tuals, but still they have a quality that makes them companionable and 
pleasant to associate with. . , . I feel ferociously hostile to all the trap- 


pings of Indian religion and the whole system of caste and Untouch- 
ability. Most of my friends share this intellectually, but some do not, 
and this gets in the way of our friendship. I condemn their attitudes 
on Russia and China and we exchange mutual charges of ignorance 
and prejudice. I tax them with their color attitudes and they either 
regret them or say they don't share them. These things spoil our rela- 
tions, and when I want to keep things pleasant, I avoid talking about 
them. They claim to be ignorant about Soviet Europe and insist they 
don't accept dictatorship, but they just go along blindly with their 
prejudices and won't even read things about it. Of course in the last 
few years all this has modified my relations with many Indians. I think 
a lot of old friends of India in America are sick and tired of the smug- 
ness and the holier-than-thou attitude, the claims about their spiritual 
quality and our materialism. Arthur Lall and Krishna Menon rub a lot 
of people the wrong way. Mme. Pandit makes a beautiful impression, 
but those who know her know she is arrogantly superior in her out- 
look. The closer you are to Indians, the more you are likely to be dis- 
enchanted with Indian politicians and Indian attitudes. 

Mixed Con (25) 

From the Mixed Pros we move across a sort of divide in this 
topography of attitudes toward Indians encountered. The divide it- 
self is not unpeopled, and we will eventually return to it for the views 
it offers. But we cross it now to follow first the currents of feeling 
as they begin to flow in the opposite direction. This shift starts with 
a group of 25 Mixed Cons, individuals whose views are mixed but 
with a weight of reaction that is essentially negative. 

There is a heavy concentration of India experience in this group: 
10 with extensive contact with India, 11 with briefer experience on 
the ground, and only four with none at all. The striking thing about 
the India-experienced group is the large number among them 
whose judgments tangle, often in a deeply troubling way, with their 
committed personal and professional sympathies. We find among 
them a journalist of several years 7 experience in India, a woman 
writer who has devoted much of her time to the Indian cause in 
America, a professional man who has achieved international repute 
for his work in India, a foundation official wholly concerned with 
Indian interests, 2 India-born men, one of whom followed the 
parental missionary path, the other now a scholar exclusively con- 
cerned with Indian matters, and a missionary official whose job it is 
to advance the Christian cause in the new Indian conditions. 


The journalist came out of a three-year stay in India with a great 
sense of triumph over having won "acceptance 77 from Indians against 
great difficulties: 

There is tension in all relations. You are constantly forced to prove 
yourself to him in a way he does not have to prove himself to you. 
Your bona fides are constantly being questioned. The problem of color 
sensitivity plays a large role in this. You discover the Indian's own 
color attitudes and also his acute consciousness of color issues in the 
world. The color problem is always present in a friendship between 
Indians and Americans. It is hard to put your finger on, but you feel 
a certain absence of rapport, with the Indian always probing you. . . . 
In exchanging ideas, they tend to overstate their views in order to 
make sure there's no question about their asserting themselves, quite 
aggressive and belligerent. But this conduct does not upset me. I have 
had my own good faith accepted, so I feel satisfied. . . . 

The foundation executive feels the same one-sidedness of the rela- 

Get a great variety and a whole range of types. You almost always 
do run into some form of inferiority complex and defensive posture. 
They try to find my vulnerabilities and attack whatever I represent. 
They have a great sense of insecurity, many conflicts over family rela- 
tions and social status, an underlying lack of confidence and a certain 
cynicism. They are self-seeking, quite importunate in selfish personal 
matters. . . . Actually, though, I have liked most of them. I have been 
readier to see their good qualities than they have been to see mine. But 
I do have a sense of a persistent distance between us. I have never 
really had time for real leisurely relations with Indians. I think if I did 
there would be very few Indians I would want to see very much of. ... 

The India-born missionary, who ardently defends India's foreign 
policy against its American critics, spoke of the difficulties of rela- 
tionships in India itself: 

I think this whole complex of attitudes derives from the well-im- 
bedded Indian expectation that the white Westerner is going to think 
the Indian is inferior. Therefore the Indian is hostile and rejects the 
white Westerner. I feel you get over this barrier only after long associa- 
tion, but even in my own experience and I was born in India and 
identify quite fully with it I am subject to this acute sensitivity and 
have had some very painful experiences. ... I think it is this inferiority 
complex which is directly responsible for the great arrogance of a great 
many Indian intellectuals. It seems often that they cannot abide any 


comparisons. Personally what I feel most strongly about is their lack 
of social consciousness and responsibility for the well-being of people 
they do not know or are not connected with personally. Indians are 
most generous and friendly with those whom they know, but they seem 
almost not to comprehend that others are human beings too. I have 
been greatly struck to observe that Indian teachers are not interested in 
their pupils as individuals, are not sensitive to individuality or charac- 
ter. . . . 

The mixture of identification and exasperation emerges perhaps most 
fully in the reaction of the India-born scholar: 

Indians make me think of many different things. I like them as 
friends. I like their point of view on politics. They are more intelligent 
than most Americans I know about what's going on in the world. They 
are too sophisticated to believe that everything we do is holy, every- 
thing the other side does is unholy. They realize more subtle shades of 
gray. This may reflect Indian philosophy, which does not construe the 
world in blacks and whites. The Indian claim of moral superiority is 
just an outer layer. If you know them well, they speak differently. They 
only half-believe it. You can get onto other levels if you arc able to 
break this barrier down. Some really believe it, and this of course 
limits their sophistication. They are loyal people loyal to their coun- 
try and their culture, quite admirably so. ... But I now realize more 
than I did before that the Indian mind is fundamentally unscientific, 
i.e., as we understand the scientific concept in research. I am also 
much more aware of this ambivalence, between the white culture they 
cannot accept because of what it has meant to them, while at the same 
time they cannot fully accept their own. So they arc full of conflicts, 
difficulties. Anybody who knows Indians well will tell you they have 
very insecure traits. This is illustrated by their silly use of titles, titles, 
titles. The Babu mentality, a sort of petty clerk arrogance toward all 
who are inferior, together with servility to all one's betters. This is 
sometimes maddening. You can see it right here in Washington at the 
embassy how they treat each other in terms of status. It is carried to 
the point of rudeness. They are also irresponsible, will promise to do 
tilings and then don't do them. Continuously, always, not just once in 
a while, and even when it is to their advantage to be more cooperative. 
This happens again and again. I attribute this to a lack of organized 
minds, lack of concept of method. There arc of course notable excep- 
tions, occasional, but certainly not frequent. Their scholarship rarely 
reflects any quality. Their Ph.D. theses would not qualify for entry 
into graduate work here. Same thing among businessmen, although 
perhaps not so much irresponsibility. But businessmen combine even 


more superstitious beliefs with modernism than the intellectuals. But 
given half a chance, they are warm and friendly, polite, and helpful, 
until the European expresses some racialist attitude. Then the curtain 
drops. It is the primary touchstone. Bending over backward, patroniz- 
ing, is just as bad as the opposite. . . . Their irksome qualities do get 
in the way of liking many of them. It depends on the degree to which 
any particular individual has them. Among "old India hands" there is, 
I am afraid, a fair amount of covert contempt; the unspoken senti- 
ment is: We know how tedious and trying and silly they can be, even 
though we know how nice they can be too. . . . 

Among those whose involvement with India is still considerable 
but of much more recent date, a great measure of detachment tends 
to appear. The effect of one brief trip to India appears in these re- 
marks by an economist: 

Before I went to India my impressions of Indians were: aggressive, 
insecure, humorless, verbally facile, quite often bright. I no longer feel 
they are without humor. I also found many more with genuine self- 
confidence instead of aggressiveness due to a lack of confidence. Still 
think of them as verbally facile. Before I went there, I had on balance 
a minus feeling, bright and competent but rather unpleasant and un- 
admirable as human beings. I tend now to classify them more as per- 
son-to-person, fewer national characteristics than before. Also realized 
my earlier contacts had always been scanty and unmotivated. In India 
I found it took quite a while to get through to a person, but once you 
were through, it was all right. They were certainly more secure, per- 
haps because I was now seeing them on their home grounds. I had 
images of mysticism, lack of practicality, religious fervor, hideous pov- 
erty. Now some of this is not as strong as before. It is not effaced, but 
greatly reduced, especially on the mystical side. . . . 

The professional businessman made a conscious effort to avoid emo- 
tional involvement in his rather extensive Indian associations: 

I don't "live" India; I'm just very interested in it. In India you get 
into closer sympathy with people than you do here where things are 
less intimate. They call more for that put-your-hand-in-mine relation- 
ship. Many seemed to me frustrated people who don't see what path 
to follow. Great deal of professional jealousy, are never satisfied with 
their prestige or economic returns, suffer from a sense of unreality, tend 
to equate the possibilities with their wishes. They are educated to con- 
formity rather than to experiment or questioning. They very rarely 
write critical or self-critical reports. . . . Certain Hindu doctrines, espe- 


cially renunciation, appeal to me very much, but I do not believe they 
have really permeated Indian life. People there are really quite indif- 
ferent to the ideas of Gandhi or the Gita. They are really very callous 
about life. I think we are more humanitarian than they are, while the 
more sensitive among the Indians are generally more sensitive than 
any of us. 

A missionary official of fairly recent India experience: 

Ascetic, sensitive, intelligent, articulate, but with a certain aloof- 
ness. It is very difficult to get close to Indians, to share experience or 
understanding with them. Felt a kind of bottled-up resentment under 
the surface while outwardly they were trying to be polite and calm. I 
felt uncomfortable and apologetic because I was so well off, secure, in 
contrast to all that poverty. Had a feeling they sensed and resented 
this. Maybe I just imagine it. ... Indians are helpless in practical mat- 
ters. Those who come here have to be nursed along. Have to take care 
of them every step of the way. Same kind of childlike dependency in 
finances. Many are unable to be completely straightforward or honest 
with you. Much petty maneuvering and dishonesty. Have had some 
very unhappy experiences. . . . Indians are opinionated. Maybe this is 
the British influence because I've always had the notion that Britishers 
are opinionated too. But when we have Indians to a meeting of fifteen 
or twenty well-informed people, the Indian will tend to dominate the 
whole business. Has opinions on everything and is very uninhibited 
about expressing them. I keep wondering whether I feel this because I 
am not particularly opinionated, always holding my judgments in abey- 
ance, so maybe I notice it more. ... I like Indians, and I admire them, 
and I try to see their point of view on controversial matters like 
politics. But I am a little uneasy in their presence. I feel I am suspect. 
I am inclined to think that some people who have spent their entire 
lifetime in India feel this same way. . . . 

Four present or former top American diplomats and one rather 
important member of Congress appear among the Mixed Cons. 
To a far greater extent than most others, their preoccupations lie 
primarily in the field of politics, and all of them share a more or 
less hostile impatience with Indian political outlooks. One of the 

Those I had contact with were very superior people. However there is 
a great gulf between these Indians and the rest. It is enormous, like 
two different races. The British-educated official class, the ICS [Indian 
Civil Service] people received their better education and values from 


the British, and a sense of public responsibility. The Congress people 
did not have the integrity of the ICS. They carry the scars of the past, 
full of inhibitions and prejudices. It is so difficult to get them to see 
your point. They just close up in certain things. The press people lack 
honesty and candor ? and the business people are even lower in the 
scale. Double-faced, wily, squirming mentalities, always twisting and 
embarrassing you, try to trap you and confuse you and catch you up, 
rather than try to get at the truth. India is a madhouse of confused 
leaders. . . . 

The second said: 

Communication is easy because of their use of the English lan- 
guage, and their training under the British gives the same quality to 
the words used. But there is a different mental approach that gets in 
the way. It has taken me years to understand this. There is extreme 
race consciousness. They are guilty in their own country of the strong- 
est race prejudices and caste system in the world, but they solidarize 
automatically with other colored people, even the Mau Mau, simply 
because they are colored. Whatever the white man does is wrong. 
Many Indians have risen above this, and Nehru seems genuinely to 
want to overcome these distinctions in India. 

A third, who had visited in India but whose principal meeting 
ground with Indians was as a member of the American delegation 
at the UN, sees them in the back of his mind in these terms: 

I think I have an insight into some of the spiritual qualities of In- 
dians, their fine and noble qualities, but also some of the dreadful dis- 
tortions of their religion. From members of my family [involved in 
missionary work in India] I have gotten the idea that Indians have a 
different view of honesty than we have. Also a greater courtesy and 
politeness than ours and a certain serenity. Some a joy to be with, but 
in general a negative reaction. My [missionary] relatives share a sort 
of Britisher's white-man's-burdcn view of Indians and tend to look 
down their noses at Indians more than I do. I think I have more chari- 
table feelings and greater sympathy for Indian religious ideas than 
these missionaries have. But I do see them as somewhat inferior. Part 
of this is the feeling that you are dealing with colored people. ... At 
the UN I and my country were insulted by Indian representatives, and 
this has helped form my mental picture of Indians. 

Mild Con (21) 

Almost all the colors, features, and accents of the encountered 
Indian have been sketched in by now, even though all our more 


critical portraitists still await their turn at the easel. The additions 
to come, however, are almost entirely a matter of lighting, and light- 
ing is a matter of intensity and placement. Beginning very early 
among the Pros and accumulating among the Mixed, attributes seen 
as less attractive have mingled with the attractive in varying schemes 
and touches. Now as we move among those whose view of the In- 
dians is predominantly negative, the more attractive features begin to 
disappear into the shadows and the light falls more and more ex- 
clusively on features reflecting dislike, distaste, and hostility. With 
strikingly few exceptions, the harsher judgments are the products of 
much scantier contact and experience. 

In contrast to the high frequency of India-experienced people 
among those with Mixed views, we find in this first of our negative 
groups, the Mild Con, 21 individuals of whom only i had any 
moderately extensive experience in India less than a year's time on 
an academic assignment and only five who had been briefly in the 
country i only for an overnight plane stop and 15 who have never 
been there at all. Some of the latter have had almost no contact 
whatever with Indians anywhere. The sparsity of contact with coun- 
terpart Indians seems in some cases to leave the mind free to retain 
many of the earlier, cruder images. An example in a public opinion 

I think of impoverished, ignorant fanatics, teeming masses, no edu- 
cation, bizarre religious practices. These are probably my own earliest 
impressions, out of the National Geographic, and I am probably attrib- 
uting these to people now fakirs, beds of nails, hot coals, that sort of 
thing. I still retain this picture although I realize of course its extreme 
forms are now more rare. I think of India now mostly in a political 
context. . . . 

Others offered various fleeting impressions fleetingly gained. E.g., a 
social psychologist: 

From my experience with students in my classes, I have one strong 
stereotype: the Indians seem to be philosophical and abstract rather 
than empirical and scientific. A recent study made in Durban [in South 
Africa] showed that Bantus were very concrete and Indians very ab- 
stract. This fits my impression of all the Indians I have met. Two I 
remember as extremely oily. I had one who filled his pocket with my 
cigars and then had the audacity to offer me one. I have known lots 
of Americans like this too. . . . 


A professor of psychology: 

Have met only a few Indians and most of these I have felt unable 
to reach. I really mean a difficulty of getting good first impressions, 
never can get an impression of what the pitch is, what kind of fellow 
he is, his interests, quality of mind. This seems to be my experience 
with Indians; rarely with others. . . . Because the brother's-keeper con- 
cept doesn't have value in the Indian value system, I distrust it .... 

A prominent Negro journalist: 

Have long known the caste system is based fundamentally on color 
and that Indians have color prejudices. Have read and heard lots about 
it from people who have been there. A friend of mine who went to 
India in 1948 remarked on advertisements he saw in the papers seek- 
ing light-skinned wives. Once he commented on the beauty of Indian 
women and was shocked when an Indian acquaintance said: "You 
ought to go up north, we have some women there you can't tell from 
white!" Indians I meet here seem critical of our color line but I fre- 
quently thought that these people don't see the beam in their own 
eye, especially on this matter. I am sometimes annoyed too by their 
harping on American materialism. Everywhere I've ever gone, all peo- 
ple are materialistic. . . . 

A government official: 

They are very intent and voluble people. At FAO conferences always 
the first and last to speak. Gave me the feeling they were neglecting 
their own problems and thinking about theoretical world problems. 
Have heard from others who have dealt with Indians, who say Indians 
are quick to learn but more in theories than in practical accomplish- 
ments. They said the Indians never relaxed with them on a man- 
to-man basis. . . . 

One of the travelers in this group was a Congressman who made an 
overnight stop in Calcutta in 1947: 

Had a glimpse of the crowds. The religious and political tension was 
on. It was a depressing sort of experience. Thought of it later when the 
head of WHO asked me how public health could be helped in India 
when cattle roam freely and religion prevents any proper sanitation. 
I think Nehru has stultified India in American eyes by being so foot- 
sey with Russia and the Chinese Communists. I used to be very sym- 
pathetic but I now feel highly critical. . . . 

Another was a United States Senator who toured in 1953: 


I found Indians inscrutable. Such an enormous number of them and 
it was a handicap not to be able to meet many run-of-the-mill people. 
Just because Nehru or Menon says something it doesn't mean they 
reflect the people's thinking. How do we get at it? Pakistanis have no 
use for the sincerity of Indians, and I was more impressed with the 
sincerity of the Pakistanis. . . . 

A third was a major political figure who came away from a brief 
visit the same year with these impressions: 

There was an aggressive intellectualism and a sort of curious self- 
confidence that they really know, overeducated people, preoccupied 
with the ethics of modern society, and with highly discolored pictures 
of the West. I have met these types before, and I don't think my im- 
pressions are inaccurate. There were no vast surprises when I went to 
India. On the whole I found it less frightening and miserable than I 
had foreseen. Saw some ghastly things but not as bad as I had an- 
ticipated. . . . 

The last of this group stayed longer, an economist who spent nearly 
a year in India: 

Great latent ability but need formal training. Suffer from basic root- 
lessness in their value system. Are at sea in their own minds between 
reverence for traditional Indian culture and the feeling this does not 
serve them in the industrialization of India or in making India a first- 
rate power. A marked sense of inferiority, national and personal, a 
tendency to think they know the answers. Insufficient humility before 
problems. Quite materialistic. Didn't like the Indians as well as I liked 
the British in India. . . . 

Moderate Con (20) 

The distinction between "mild" and "moderate" is a matter of 
both quantity and intensity. Here more is said, and the judgments 
are as a rule more strongly made. In a good many cases, they are 
based on considerably more experience. In contrast to the travel ex- 
perience of the Mild Con group, we find that half of the Moderates 
have been to India, i for fairly extended visits of up to a year, and 
nine for briefer periods. They include rather substantial representa- 
tives of every professional type and category in the panel as a whole. 
Several of these, both travelers and nontravelcrs, lend the predomi- 
nantly negative feeling its most important weight precisely because 
they are individuals not given to easy or superficial judgments and 


their remarks cannot be taken in any simple or single dimension. 
Here are the reactions of a highly trained scholar and observer: 

Have a great impression of verbosity. They are most talkative, volu- 
ble people. . . . You expect to have a rational conversation up to a 
point, then a barrier. They move into a mystical, noncoherent kind of 
world that is fantastic to me. They escape my ability to interchange. 
Certain emotional sets become more important than rationality or 
coherence. It has the nature of what we call prejudice; they are a 
singularly prejudiced people. Emotions ride high in many things, e.g., 
race problems. They are quite unable to see that they are in the same 
box on this matter. They suddenly escape you when you call attention 
to it. The unmarried, professional, aggressive modern women are like 
their counterparts in the United States, Met a few beautiful, well- 
groomed upper-class girls who leave a great sense of emptiness. Gra- 
cious, but disappear into thin air, like the same type here. 

Don't think of Indians as people I enjoyed, but only as people who 
interested me. Not like in Southeast Asia where areas of incomprehen- 
sion are just as great or greater, but where relations are more relaxed. 
With Indians there is a dark intensity, a malaise, a self-consciousness, 
intense, full of hostilities and insecurities, no sense of enjoyment or 
pleasure. Southeast Asians don't touch at sensitive subjects, while 
Indians pick at their souls. Indians are really more accessible in this 
sense. I admire the great achievements of the last seven years and for 
India as a place I have the warmest aesthetic feelings, exciting, end- 
lessly colorful and varied. Many Americans there see the poverty, 
squalor, are overwhelmed by it and find it an offense. They find their 
own helplessness intolerable. Many took harder than I did the arro- 
gant, supercilious, superior, hostile Indians, who disconcerted and 
amazed them no end, and they met hostility with hostility. In my case, 
I was resentful, but tried to keep resentment on an individual basis 
and not to project it to India as a country. . . . 

Consider, on the other hand, the view of a writer who has never 
been to India and knows very little about it, but judges Indians 
primarily in terms of their role in present-day world politics and by 
the individuals he encounters in Washington and other international 
centers : 

I observe primarily the power of British education and its influence 
on them, and their vast capacity for hypocrisy which they have taken 
from the Anglo-Saxons, I suppose. They are playing the role Americans 
played in the nineteenth century, standing off and lecturing the world. 
This critical neutralism rather amuses me. They are hypocritical even 


when they discuss their neutrality, which is based on the very power 
they are criticizing. They emphasize philosophy and principles which 
they completely fail to follow themselves. I think they are hypocritical 
in international affairs and deeply prejudiced. They fiercely criticize 
this country for its prejudices while in their own life they are so fiercely 
prejudiced. They talk to us about the Negroes but do not apply to 
themselves the principles they recommend to us. They do not apply 
to Pakistan the ideas they would have us apply to certain other coun- 
tries. I have had a growing irritation with Indians in recent years, and 
this is quite unique with me. I do not have any such feelings about any 
other people. 

An ex-professor whose recall of Indian students goes back to the 

They are prize go-getters, will insinuate you out of your eyebrows. 
Not always consciously guileful, though sometimes they are. They have 
axes to grind and they grind them. Will not only remember you on 
waking and retiring as a favorite teacher, but will let you know it. 
Maybe guile is not a good word because it is not so much deliberate 
as it is part of their nature. Only two or three exceptions to this but 
these have all been extremely Westernized types. The Hindu students 
respond quickly to Western culture and then have a revulsion against 
it. Back in India they become lost souls. Have lived through some tor- 
tured experiences with some of them, for the revulsion is very powerful. 
I became extremely fond of several, who had the run of my home. But 
I suppose I come nearer to having a prejudice about Indians than about 
any group whatever. If it is not a prejudice, it is a strong set of reserva- 
tions. I reacted also against their tendency to mysticism, which seems 
to give them a sense of their own holiness and smugness about their 
messianic character. I have noticed this particularly in scholars I have 
met in recent years, even in a leading Indian statistician who visited us 
here, in manner and way of saying things, the questions they ask, and 
their reactions to the answers. Talking about this exaggerates it I am 
talking primarily about experiences with about five among many 
dozens. But there it is, and I don't have this feeling about any other 
people I know. . . . 

Finally, from one of this country's most respected older public 

I must say that I do not find it easy to like Indians. I am not sure 
what it is. Maybe it is because I don't like the holy man idea and I 
don't like the caste system. I have felt at much greater case visiting 
other countries than I did in India. Some intellectuals I met I learned 


to really like, but I confess that even among this most friendly group 
I found some pretty hard to take. Many of the professors I met, for 
example, seemed to me to be great foolers with words. They struck 
me as people who lack the capacity or desire to take hold of life vig- 

Among the Moderate Cons we also find an official with consider- 
able responsibility for an international exchange program that brings 
him into frequent contact with people of almost every nationality on 
earth. His account: 

I go on the assumption that under the skin all people are almost 
alike, I like to feel I can break through any reserve, and I do it all the 
time, except with Indians. They are smart and intellectual but also 
volatile and unstable and often petty and irritating. I don't ever quite 
know where they stand, and I feel distrustful of them. Maybe these 
words are too strong. I like them all right, but I have learned not to be 
surprised if they give the opposite impression twenty-four hours later. 
They are something of a problem. . . . They are often unpleasant, an- 
noying, and frustrating. I think everybody around here would tell you: 
"Of all the peoples we deal with, the Indians are the most difficult. . . ." 
Other Asians are much easier and more pleasant to get along with, 
Indonesians, Burmese, Thais. I felt this within fifteen minutes of 
landing in Rangoon from India. The whole previous week in India 
had involved a great sense of strain in all my contacts. In Rangoon it 
simply disappeared. I could laugh and expect the Burmese to laugh 
too. In India I didn't dare tell a joke for fear I'd be misunderstood. 
... I observe that people who have a great deal to do with India, some 
of the political boys and many specialists on India, have even stronger 
feelings, personal and political, than we do and are harder on the 
Indians than we are though they have been working with Indians all 
their lives. 

And here is the account of a young exchangee who went to India 
for several months: 

They are very sensitive about everything, themselves and their coun- 
try. Had to be awful careful about the way you talked. They were very 
hospitable. I somehow felt they were not happy to see me but were 
hospitable anyway. They would ask your opinion about something, 
but as soon as you said anything that rubbed the fur a little bit, they 
would jump you on it. They weren't very tactful. They would just 
about meet you and would soon be demanding to know why the 
United States is so terrible, its morals so bad. They have big miscon- 
ceptions. Naturally I resented this. It burns you. They wouldn't be- 


lieve my explanations; they had their own ideas. It was pretty hard to 
talk. You'd try to explain and three or four of them would talk you 
down. ... To put it in plainer words, I found them pretty two-faced. 
They would tell you one thing and tell others another thing, about us 
and about each other. They weren't frank. I would say this about 
almost all the Indians we got to know. They have a sense of humor, but 
it's different. It is harder for Indians to laugh at themselves. . . . 

A novelist: 

I think of moral arrogance in connection with Indians. Something 
about the Tightness of Gandhism as the way of solving the problems of 
the world. The various Indian intellectuals, writers and others whom 
I meet seem to me to try to rationalize what they already believe, 
traveling around just to confirm their own generalizations. I do think 
of them as having a certain abstract idealism, a kind of goodness, but 
I regard the spiritual-materialistic business as a joke that sometimes 
gets me very sore. . . . 

Finally, these views from a social scientist: 

I have met several who have showed extraordinary intelligence and 
superior proficiency in their fields, but generally Indians seem to me 
chattering, full of grievances, full of their spiritual superiority. I don't 
like people who talk about their injuries and oppressions, Negro-pre- 
occupied Negroes, Jew-preoccupied Jews, self-preoccupied selves. With 
Indians you are always walking on tiptoe to avoid giving rise to cranki- 

Strong Con (32) 

Antipathy for Indians and India is heavy in the panel as a whole, 
and among those with negative views the heaviest weight in sheer 
numbers falls among those with the strongest views on the subject. 
At this end of the spectrum we find no fewer than 32 individuals 
who share the most unqualified, the most sharply expressed, and the 
most intensely felt attitudes of rejection, criticism, or dislike of 
Indians in general and in particular. 

This group is drawn from every professional category in the panel 
and from every degree of Asian experience and contact. But it also 
has one most remarkable feature: here among the total of 32 we 
find 14 people identified with China backgrounds. These 14 com- 
prise nearly the entire China group in the panel as a whole; they 
include 13 of our 16 China specialists and i other who is not listed 


as a specialist because his experience dates back so far and his inter- 
ests have been engaged elsewhere since. Of the three other China 
specialists, two are in the Mixed Con group, holding views of In- 
dians which are hardly less critical than in the present group but 
expressed in a more moderate or more qualified form. The i remain- 
ing, a missionary, is the only person of China experience who views 
Indians favorably; he appears among the Moderate Pros. This virtual 
unanimity among the China people with regard to Indians cuts across 
all other lines of politics, philosophic outlook, or personality. They 
appear here whether they are ultraconservative admirers of the pro- 
Chiang Kai-shek school or "liberals" who have been accused of being 
soft on Communism because of their hostility to Chiang and the 
Kuomintang. Maligners and maligned, bitter foes on China issues, 
they come together in a tight cluster on the subject of India and 
Indians. Some examples: 

A government official: 

The startling contrast between the Chinese and the Indians in the 
mass. The Indians showed no joy in life, beaten down, no spark of 
gumption, the equivocal shake of the head that says neither yes nor 
no, the retreat into vagueness. I am not speaking of intellectuals or 
political leaders, whom I did not meet much, but the others one passed 
among and worked with. . . . Was repelled by the submissiveness of 
Indians, no sharp, clean twinkle such as you see in the eye of a Chinese 
shopkeeper. Every time I went back to China [during the war] I would 
sigh with relief and feel that here are people again. The Chinese would 
look at you, respond to you. Indian laborers avoid your eye. Maybe 
there has been a change since independence, for I always equated this 
attitude to British rule. But I don't know. . . . 

A well-known diplomat: 

Have never found Indians agreeable. They're humorless, sorry for 
themselves. After seeing and being with Chinese, the Indians never 
seemed happy. What makes the Indian such a cantankerous soul? . . . 
Any group of Chinese and Americans seem to belong together. With 
Indians you never get this feeling, Can you imagine kidding an 

A noted journalist: 

I judge by history. India insofar as it has a history that we know 
is a debased and contemptible kind of place. You can't even call it a 
nation with a history. Its ideas and religion are based on a mess of 


mystical nonsense. No resilience, no strength, never could really stand 
up for itself. . . . Since Indians are a very irritating people, it is going 
to take an irritating kind of American to get along with them. . . . 
Why, the Indians burn their dung! I am Chinese enough to consider 
this a crime, the ultimate in foolishness. An unpleasant country, an 
unpleasant people. I don't like half-baked Westerners. . . . The Chi- 
nese, on the other hand, have the greatest and most unique history 
in the world. . . . You don't often find a Chinese who is a fool. . . . 

In this entire group with extreme negative views, there are only two 
who have had substantial experience in India itself. One is a journal- 
ist who has served there for lengthy periods during the last decade: 

They are people who tend to worry too much about how many 
angels can dance on the head of a pin without worrying about the 
character of the angels or the location of the pin. They carry the act 
of argument to the point of enervation and are more interested in 
argument than in substance. It is a diseased state of mind in which any 
possibility of constructive action is vitiated by an intensely detailed 
and intricate analysis of motives. Saps all the energy out of any 
operation. I think they are like this because of the uncertainty of the 
Hindu religion, which means all things to all men, a mass of supersti- 
tion gathered over time and applied differently to different classes. 
There is a basic insecurity in their religion which is no damned good 
at all and they must recognize it. So they discuss! There would be 
more to talk about with a Hindu on a desert isle than with a Catholic! 
I think this explains why they are so defensive. I am really fond of 
them generally some of the nicest people I know annoy me but I 
have no high opinion of them. What I really feel is an amused 
tolerance. . , . 

The second case is the quite different one of a missionary, born in 
India of an old missionary family, and who spent several decades 
there in mission work beginning before World War L He left India 
in 1939: 

There is a lack of integrity and straightforwardness. Indians them- 
selves, I think, admit this when their hair is clown. By integrity I mean 
intellectual honesty. I have often felt and said that an Indian can 
harbor in his mind two opposite views and seem to clo it with equa- 
nimity. This is almost illustrated by their lives: Western clothes and 
manners in a traditionalist family and household. They become almost 
two different personalities. This is not quite everything I mean. The 
fact is that they lie. One of my friends used to say that Indians will 


tell the truth only as a last resort. The same sort of thing exists among 
us, but the percentages and attitudes are different. Stealing and lying 
come together. I was always warned against placing responsibility for 
money on any of my Indian associates. I am talking about people all 
the way from high court judges and professors down to the village 
Indian. They are willing to cheat. It is very common at the upper 
levels. It is taken for granted, so there is a lack of trust in each other. 
. . . We used to do our best not to prejudice the younger missionaries 
coming out. The Indians used to say these young fellows were fine 
until the older missionaries got to them. But it was their own experi- 
ence that changed them. ... It is almost impossible to give a well- 
balanced picture. Every missionary learned about these elements of 
Indian character and his job was to help Indians improve and over- 
come these characteristics. We were criticized for doing too much too 
soon. In my father's time missionaries were much more dominating; 
they dealt with the lowest-caste people, but their estimate of the 
Indians was the same: lack of honesty. Indians also lack tenacity. Have 
short-term enthusiasms, then give out, don't persist in things. There 
are economic reasons for this but also character reasons. They are still 
lovable, though. Find yourself indulgent. You make allowances for all 
the lapses. ... I am probably too critical. I haven't been back in India 
for a long time, so I am quite ignorant about conditions now. . . . 

Except for these two, all the members of this extreme group are 
people whose personal experience with India or Indians has been 
quite brief and incidental. This includes the entire China contingent. 
Among them we find a certain number who are peculiarly exposed, 
by their jobs, positions, or interests, to the pressures of current in- 
ternational relations. They all tend to have certain latent prejudices 
about Indians stemming from some of the familiar sources we have 
been encountering all along, and these are clearly activated by the 
current political tensions and differences. Here are the remarks of a 
former high-ranking official in the present administration in Wash- 

Read Mother India a long time ago. Fascinating. Pretty shocking 
state of affairs. I was interested by the Indian outcries against the book, 
but I rather believed it, don't know why, but I did. . . . Had some 
idea from Kipling long ago that the Indians loved the British. The 
Life piece on Hinduism is the closest I've ever gotten to Indian religion. 
Theoretically interesting, but I wonder how a people who think a cow 
is their mother are ever going to get on in the world. A strange mixture 


of brutality and asceticism. Think of the events at the time of the 
partition of India. They are more brutal than we are and they think 
-we are brutal! In the government people were either against the In- 
dians j us t plain disliked them, the goddamned Indians or were for 
them, thought them remarkably intelligent, dedicated people with 
great capacity for philosophical thinking. ... I personally just bristle 
at Indians. A generalized bristling. Never personally involved, although 
in UN negotiations frequently ran into it. Could always count on 
unreasonable Indian opposition, was never at ease with Indians. Patho- 
logically obsessed with obsolescent Western colonialism and disregard- 
ing Soviet colonialism that is on the way in. ... 

The editor of an important magazine: 

The Indians seem to be a very conglomerate foolish race by Western 
standards. Notion of cows and scanty crops, nobody to kill the cows. 
It's insane. I don't feel called upon to worry about them. If that's the 
way they want it, caste system and all, it's their business. But why 
should we feed and build up anything like this? Nehru, as far as I am 
concerned, is an arrogant anti-American, all his speeches indicate that 
he's pro-Communist and anti-American, Menon the same or worse. 
That's all I know. 

One of the country's most prominent publishers: 

English-speaking Indians speak with a beautiful flow of language 
but half of what they say amounts to nonsense or at least high-grade 
muddleheadedness. I am offended by it. Maybe muddleheadedncss is 
not the word. Need a politer one, maybe high subjectivity. . . . An 
Anglo-Saxon gets embarrassed by the disparity between the beliefs and 
ethical code and actual behavior of Indians. The Indian is not suffi- 
ciently embarrassed by this disparity. 

The UN correspondent of a major newspaper: 

They and they alone are right and know what is right. Self-righteous. 
They alone hold the key to successful diplomacy. Arrogant, Menon 
especially. They have a tendency, when in positions of power, to be 
extremely exacting masters. They sec the whole world moving around 
India. Benegal Rau was a better-balanced type of man, although not 
exempt from this kind of thing. Madame Pandit is a twisted person, 
all things to all men and able to turn any way according to needs and 
calculations. . . . Met Nehru when he was here in 1949 and was feel 
up by the way American newspapermen pushed him to choose sides 
and I felt sympathy for his irritation. But since then I have gotten 
more and more irritated by his speeches. . . . 


A Midwestern Congressman: 

Dark people, queer religion, fetishes, sacred cow. Indian civil serv- 
ants were surly and unpleasant. Only ones like them I've ever met. 
In Calcutta on the street you almost despise the people, you want to 
help them but you can't respect them. My meeting with Nehru didn't 
help. He was very evasive about Kashmir, never gave a forthright 
answer. He was the only foreign head we ever visited who expressed 
no friendly sentiment at all. . . . 

A nationally prominent scholar: 

I made a trip to India with my father when I was sixteen, and I 
think of Gandhi, Nehru, and Indian intellectuals now with mixed 
feelings against a background picture of squalor, caste, and a cringing, 
broken-spirited people. The Indian intellectuals I have met in recent 
years seemed to me abstract, repellent, always making verbal ap- 
proaches, unable to shift the level of discourse to something practical 
and relevant. Back of this I have the whole Babu-British stereotype, 
the undereducated Indian making an ostentatious display of knowl- 
edge. Nehru's neutralist policy does not arouse my strong antagonism 
look at our own history! but I do get mad at Indian self-righteous- 
ness about it. 

In certain other cases that appear in this group, current political 
tensions or attitudes have little or no bearing. The hostility centers 
on other characteristics. One of the most common of these is as- 
sociated with the quality of being "Westernized." As we have seen, 
this is quite often the basis, or even the only basis, for high approval 
of Indians encountered. But for some, it is quite the opposite. An 

The Indians are Anglicized in dress, manners, and speech to a 
degree that is sometimes irritating. Indians are much less pleasant to 
be with than Indonesians, and I can only ascribe this to this feeling I 
have of unpleasant artificiality. They present themselves to you in 
terms of your own culture, yet without having to go very far, you find 
their own culture traits and not very admirable ones, fatalism, super- 
stition. In contrast, Indonesians translate their own culture into West- 
ern dress and manners but remain essentially what they are. With the 
Indians it is more of a veneer: they are consciously imitating the Brit- 
ish manner, whereas the Indonesians are not trying to be like the 
Dutch. They merely adopt certain exteriors without aping. I think this 
must go back to my boyhood resentment of English affectations among 


Canadians, and I felt the same way in England about Central Euro- 
pean refugees who became more English than the English. This in- 
volves an escape from a sense of inferiority by acquiring the forms of 
social superiority. Few Indians, despite their efforts, are wholly success- 
ful at being Englishmen. 

In a distinguished Negro scholar, the focus is directly on racial atti- 
tudes and relationships: 

I had some Indian fellow students when I was at Harvard. They 
kept away from Negroes, wanted nothing to do with us. They were 
"Aryans" despite their color. ... It was a standard joke among us 
that all you had to do to get away from unpleasantness was to put on 
a turban and pass as an Indian. I had no contact with them, certainly 
did not push myself on them. All they had was a selfish desire to im- 
prove only their own status. . . . Other Negro intellectuals had similar 
experiences and it created strong anti-Indian feeling among many 
Negroes. After independence, Nehru publicly chided Indians in Africa 
for exploiting Africans, and Indian attitudes toward Negroes in this 
country were reversed. They began to court Negroes here. We had one 
visiting professor who told us how India felt about the world color 
conflict, but I have always felt that somebody like Madame Pandit does 
not think of herself as belonging to the same race as black Indians. 
Nehru's statement came after the Durban riots of 1949, and it was the 
first of its kind. Indians now come looking for examples of American 
prejudice and feel complete rectitude about their position. Sec them- 
selves as having such a noble spiritual attitude that they can't have race 
prejudice themselves. I am rather cynical about this wherever I run 
into it. 

By contrast, something of the same kind of preoccupation turns up 
in the form of what might most charitably be called an exasperated 
Anglo-Saxonism, both personal and political, in the reaction of a 
State Department official: 

I became aware of having a pronounced anti-Hindu prejudice as far 
back as 1935. At various gatherings and discussions in Chicago, fanati- 
cal independence chaps among the Indians got me exasperated, and 
the same later when I went to Harvard suave, objectionable and 
biased presentations, unfair to the Western world. Ramaswamy Muda- 
liar came to Ohio State and was blandly and suavely rude to every- 
body. Just plain nasty, hard to take. He felt extremely superior to all 
us proletarians laboring at the university. In 1935 ran into Indians in 
Paris and London. My wife's a blonde and they are interested in 
blondes. She thought them interesting and I thought them terrible. 


This intensified my prejudice against these buzzards. Knowing what 
irrational, objectionable guys they were, I wondered how they would 
ever build a country. This is still a sizable component in my attitude 
toward Indians. I share and understand those who get up in the Senate 
and say let's give no dollars to Nehru. 

By far the most deep-seated of these intensely personal reactions 
turned up in a man of great intellectual attainments and personal 
sensitivity in whom the question about Indians touched off these 
small explosions: 

Indians? I think of fakiry, spelled both ways. It's the same thing. It 
means deception, swindling, sleight-of-hand, illusion, as opposed to 
reality. Insincerity. From the first time I ever heard about the Indian 
rope trick, I felt that anybody who said he could throw a rope up into 
the air and climb it was a damned liar and I wouldn't believe anything 
else he said. Somehow I am almost tempted to use the word feminine. 
I feel a certain effeminateness about Indians that bothers me, al- 
though I am not bothered in general by homosexuals. I think of the 
rope climber, fakir, magic, illusion, large scale ignorance and super- 
stition this all comes from somewhere way back. . . . Skin color has 
something to do with this too. Now let me make this clear. I have no 
such feeling about color in others. Color as such makes no difference 
to me, and as you know, I have lived my life that way. But I am 
irritated by Indians as a physical type, and it has to do with color or 
maybe a certain oiliness. Maybe I am mixing this up with my thoughts 
of Indians as insincere and unreliable. Maybe the elusiveness of their 
personality and character adds up for me to a sense of their lack of 
grasp of reality. ... I never felt it odd that other colonial people of 
various lands should speak English, but somehow Indians speaking 
English always made me feel that they were affected. . . . 

I am quite ashamed of this whole feeling. It is the only one of its 
kind I have in relation to any group as a group. I know that it goes 
back somewhere to my earliest reading experience and that these were 
reinforced by later experience and contact. In India they were rein- 
forced although narrowed down to the Hindus and Parsis, not the 
Sikhs and Muslims. The only exception I can remember was a purely 
visual one. When we were being taken across India in a hot, stinking 
train crowded with soldiers, I remember stopping in a station where 
a saintly-looking old man just released from prison was being wel- 
comed as we went through. I can remember that the quality of that 
man impressed not only me but the crudest of the GFs who were with 
me. On the other hand, pictures of Nehru repel me, that is as a physi- 
cal type, although I have found his writings not bad. For all these 


reasons I never could really get interested in the Indian nationalist 
movement. I never met an Indian yet whom I instinctively liked and 
wanted to make a friend of. I even think the sari is affected. Effete is 
a word I think of. I think of Indian civilization as unproductive and 
in a blind alley. I know all this to be a completely irrational prejudice 
pattern, and I know how stupid it is. It has diminished somewhat over 
the years but mainly because I have made a conscious effort to control 

Though we sought them for many hours, we never did get close to 
the sources of these strong feelings. They were much too deeply 
embedded behind impenetrable defenses. 

The Differentiators (8) 

Far, far back up the slope we have been descending, we spoke 
of crossing a divide, or an open space between the positive and neg- 
ative poles in this crackling field of inquiry. We said then that this 
space was not unpopulated and that we would return to it. Back 
there now, we meet the 8 individuals whose views and feelings 
about Indians are so mixed and so differentiated that it would do 
them or the subject no justice to try to locate them at any particular 
point along a positive-negative scale; in their reactions we find vary- 
ing blends of almost all that has been said on all sides. 

Here are the visible features of this group: 

Four are scholars, 2 journalists, i an ex-journalist, and the last 
a businessman. All except the businessman have had long profes- 
sional and personal involvement with India, have visited there fre- 
quently, or have lived in the country for some or many years. All 
except 2 are still deeply committed, as a matter of their life's work, 
to India. 

They all share a general outlook that may be vaguely character- 
ized as "liberal" in the loose political and social sense of that term 
as it is used in the American environment. 

Seven of the 8 can also be characterized as having primarily 
intellectual interests. 

Three of the 4 scholars are identified with missionary back- 
grounds, although only i is still connected with a missionary insti- 
tution. All 3 expressly disavowed any interest in the evangelical 
aspects of mission work, all became teachers, and one has become a 
distinguished scholar in his chosen field. 

9 Two are women. 


Two have family links to India, one of them with recent Eng- 
lish antecedents long connected with India, and one as the son of 
a missionary family long established there. 

We shall forego any attempt to guess what common pattern of 
personality brought these people together in this place. Let it emerge, 
if it is there, from some of their own accounts, which we shall 
quote extensively, beginning with one of the scholars: 

I think of very warm, deep, lasting affection on both sides. Hos- 
pitality of almost an exaggerated caliber, reliability and integrity to the 
utmost degree. But I also feel a skepticism of their roots, of the depth 
of the values they hold. Their ability to compartmentalize, the lack of 
relationship between philosophy and behavior, used to annoy me. This 
is so universal among Indians that I felt that maybe it was my under- 
standing that was wrong, that an apparent contradiction might not be 
as unique or as contradictory as I thought. I have had to suspend my 
judgment, though I still react emotionally against it. You can't often 
take what they say too literally. With some you get some tortuous 
rationalizations of things like caste, or others will make the obviously 
nonsensical statement that it has been "abolished/' This makes it 
difficult for me to like Indians indiscriminately. There are times when 
I can't stand speaking to any of them and I seek out others, Europeans, 
who somehow seem to speak the same language I do. 

The grandeur of their past is a barrier through which one has to 
pass, a barrier of well-meant self-righteousness. When I do not en- 
counter it, I am almost cautious, feeling that this individual's explana- 
tion of Indian experience might lack some degree of authenticity. I 
often think I am getting something objective about India when I see 
an Indian's report in a Western journal, but that means it's been 
acceptable to a Western editor, i.e., the insights come from those 
whose ideas are closest to our own. Those I have liked are those with 
whom I have gotten over this barrier because we have known each 
other so long. It is a kind of fagade to make the outsider think India 
is great, but the longer you know a person, less and less of the fagade 
is presented. There arc also those who acknowledge at least the exist- 
ence of their contradictions. I have gotten to the point of discussing 
this with perhaps twenty people, without resolving it in any way. It 
usually ends up with a discussion of my contradictions alongside 
theirs. I do not think the parallel is exact. They think it is. ... 

I don't find it easy to live in India. I feel the poverty. I once stopped 
a man who was beating a bullock. People laughed. This makes it hard. 
All of it often makes my life a hell, because I identify myself with prob- 
lems I see in a way that makes it difficult for me to be a good social 


scientist. The fact is that although I like Indians as an intriguing 
people, and I feel at home in India, it is a constant mental and emo- 
tional experience for me while I am there. You can never be passive. 
It asks for action, for thinking. More so than in the United States. I 
feel more a part of it, as I do not in the United States, where all is 
self-satisfied. I like the country and am most illogical about it. I do 
tend to think of the negative factors because I react to things that need 
something done about them. . . . 

Here are the judgments of a woman who first went out to India 
as a missionary college teacher thirty-five years ago: 

Everyone is different, some good, some bad, some this and some 
that, and I knew hundreds of all kinds. Yet I do believe there are some 
characteristics that are Indian, certainly more Indian than American. 
I can draw a sort of composite that may not be red but is certainly 
true. There is a certain gentleness that is peculiar because it is com- 
bined with a kind of cruelty. They are insensitive to the suffering of 
people whom they do not know or are of lower status than they are. 
They have plenty of brains and love to talk. Never saw such talkers, 
they love to argue, it gives them great pleasure. They are exceedingly 
generous within certain limits. At the same time pretty bigoted and 
prejudiced. This is due to their Hindu upbringing, even among people 
who like to claim they are emancipated but really aren't, prejudices 
about living, eating, doing things a certain way, about approaches to 
people. This has a lot to do with caste, even for those who believe 
they don't pay attention to these things. Some are very conscious of 
status and those who want to push push a lot, not through merit but 
through influence or any way they can. There is great loyalty, but 
mostly communal. My Indian friends, I think, would be ready to do 
anything for me with less calculation than Americans would. The 
reverse is true; my Indian friends would ask for things an American 
would hesitate to ask, even of a friend. They give and expect, regard- 
less of cost. They have often told me, of course, that I can't generalize 
about these things. 

There is plenty of humor. But here again Indians arc extreme, I mean 
uninhibited, extremes in joy and sorrow, extravagant, say anything, 
many things that would be embarrassing to an American. They get very 
emotional. If they want to cry, they cry, the men too. If they want to 
wail, they wail. If they have pain, they don't conceal it from anybody. 
Don't discipline their children. Americans are prone to think that the 
lesser breeds without the law don't have virtues. But they do. They love 
their children. On man-woman relationships, among those who keep 
Indian traditions, it is astounding for so often educated men have 


illiterate wives and I have been astonished to see how good their re- 
lationship often is. Like here, it is sometimes very bad too. 

The Indian is not as religious as we think he is. We greatly exaggerate 
this. I don't think the Indians are any more spiritual than the Ameri- 
cans. The idea of the meditative Indian on the riverbank is silly. He is 
just as interested in his daily bread and material things as we are. I 
don't think religion occupies the whole horizon of the Indian, it only 
seems to. ... 

I like Indians, my composite Indian too. It happens to be my tem- 
perament that I don't expect my friends to be perfect. I see faults in 
all of my friends. I am very fond of India and Indians but that doesn't 
mean that I don't sometimes feel amused or a little superior or irri- 
tated by some things. And sometimes I feel inferior in others, especially 
in the matter of generosity, the capacity to give oneself, loyalty. Many 
Indians, for example, do not have the same standards of honesty and 
integrity that we have. Americans think Indians are such liars. But my 
Indian friends are just as critical of other Indians for this sort of thing. 
Some Indians are finaglers. We have that among us here too. Indians 
don't admire losing one's temper. They might think this is worse than 
lying as a characteristic, I have learned, while keeping my own stand- 
ards, that there is such a thing as having a different emphasis. . . . 

Another woman who lived five years in India: 

I get a diffusing sense of warmth. Some I loved very much. I keep 
these memories to prevent bad temper and irritation with Indians from 
carrying me away. They can be damnably irritating people. I come to 
their defense when others attack them, but I think they are very 
negative, ornery. . . . With some friends you get very close, although 
they cross you up sometimes too. They are self-conscious people, al- 
ways conscious of how they are impressing you. But I can only think 
of them as individuals, I liked their sense of humor. Some newspaper 
people told me I'd never hear anybody laugh or make a joke, but this is 
completely untrue. Their humor is more delicate or subtle, in the vil- 
lages quite bucolic and ribald. . . . Their attitude of moral superiority, 
however, is infuriating, although maybe in some ways they are su- 
perior. I was converted to the Indian idea of "right action" even if the 
Indians don't live up to it themselves. Indians are more anxious to be 
good than any other people I've ever met. Their emphasis on life and 
its meaning is something we've rather forgotten. My feelings are not 
quite mystic, but sometimes I felt something, felt carried in a stream 
of humanity, not of individuals, just life in a crowd of people animals, 
an endless flow of humanity. I never get this here. 

When I first went to India in 1947, I discovered murderous hatred, 


ugliness, urge to kill, hysteria. I hated the whole bloody country that 
year. But I began to meet gentler people, and found many different 
sorts, as well as many I didn't like. I didn't think much of the 
Gandhians after I saw them in action. Coldness to everybody outside 
their fold, arrogant attitude toward everybody else. They do not have a 
true sense of love. Perhaps not even Gandhi himself. One of my friends 
called him a "hypnotizer, charlatan, and minor archangel." I thought 
this was pretty good. I can't get explicit. Corruption, messy outrageous 
things. But also a feeling of great, good power. . . . Tempers flared 
easily in Indians I knew, but so did my own. In the time of the riots, 
even my friends were unable to be dispassionate. They would almost 
deny what was happening, and after that I was always a little distrust- 
ful of the Indians' concept of the truth. They usually exaggerate or 
else minimize, they are not interested in the importance of the actual 
fact. I did feel an underlying hysteria in Indians, but while I was in 
Kashmir I happened to pick up a history of the Thirty Years 7 War and 
realized the behavior of the people in that time was worse than that 
of the Indians in the riots. People are oppressed so much by ignorance 
and circumstances. . . . Social conscience has yet to grow in India, 
where there is no real sense of the brotherhood of man. They don't 
really give a damn about others. Of course Indians can hold two con- 
tradictory points of view. I can too. I think Nehru is hypocritical about 
Kashmir, yet I also think Nehru is a sincere man. . . , 

A long-time student of Indian affairs in general and politics in 

There is a great capacity in Indians for friendship, but often a fairly 
sharp line beyond which it is impossible to penetrate or understand. 
We find blanknesses in each other which are mutually unsatisfying. 
With one after another of my Indian friends, I found I could go as- 
tonishingly long distances, only to hit a road block at the end. In gen- 
eral this is true of all human relationships, but in our own society I 
can have some sense of what the impenetrable areas arc and can make 
some assumptions about them. But the unease in Indian relationships 
comes from the fact that I know that the area I cannot probe includes 
a lot of potent forces of culture, tradition, and superstition, all along 
quite different lines from my own. This is all asking a lot of a friend- 
ship, of course, but the Indian pattern is to resist the casual association 
to which we are accustomed and to concentrate on the deeper associa- 
tion. It was obvious to me quite early that if I was going to have friends, 
the American pattern was inadequate. Had to give a lot more to re- 
ceive a lot more. 

My feelings about Indians are strong, warm friendships and rather 


sharp antipathies, discrimination of individuals and traits. No blobby 
emotional reaction either way. About the only generalization I can 
offer is that except in the most Westernized group, I have to go farther 
out of my own cultural patterns to establish good communication with 
Indians than I would have to with a good many other national groups. 
This unease about Indians may be a special feature, resting in their 
basic insecurity and frustration. It is often dissipated to a large extent 
but it comes up again and again. ... I think it stems from the fact 
that their lives no longer parallel the lives of their fathers and that 
more broadly, since 1947 and independence, they have lost a sense of 
a clear-shining goal. 

Finally, a senior scholar whose interests embrace both India's an- 
cient past and her troubled present: 

Of course I have a high opinion of the achievements of India in the arts 
of civilization and ethics. After all, you are asking me about the subject 
of my life's work, and if I didn't have some such feelings what would 
I be doing in it? Of course I say these things with selectivity. Many 
things in India and Indian literature are stupid, that is to say they are 
not consistent logically with the principles the authors lay claim to, 
but this of course is true in all literature. It strikes me that when you 
come across people who are like that, it may very well be difficult to 
talk to them. Nobody likes his own society to be judged by such people, 
who exist everywhere. Many non-Indian intellectuals are irritated by 
this kind of Indian, but they are also irritated with the logical Indian. 
It is of course when the premises seem unreasonable like Nehru's 
that irritation results. Of course Indian stereotypes like the one about 
the materialistic West are very irritating. The whole pattern of inferi- 
ority complex with its twin aspects of arrogance and timidity enters 
into these attitudes. I think Indians carry a very strong sense of shame 
out of the 1947-48 experience shame, rather than guilt. They are 
also highly sensitive to the notion that most Americans still have the 
"Mother India" point of view and are basically patronizing. It seems to 
me obvious that Indian stereotypes about Americans are as wrong as 
most stereotypes are. Actually on this spiritual-materialist plane, there 
is very little difference between the two. Indians simply do not accept 
the hundreds of references in the Rigveda to wealth, lineage, victory 
over one's enemies as the rewards for right doing and the good things 
which you ask from your gods. Of course in a more transient way our 
current obsession with Communism feeds some of the hostile attitudes, 
but this seems to me a phase that can't last forever. It is necessary to 
keep remembering that neither we nor the Indians like to be told that 
our prejudices are wrong. 



OUT OF ALL THIS one thing at least seems reasonably clear: the reac- 
tions produced by most American-Indian encounters are rarely casual. 
Strong emotions get involved. They are perhaps aggravated but are 
not caused by current political differences. Neither are they in their 
essence specious or superficial, the product of crude "misunderstand- 
ing" or of the confrontation of simple-minded stereotypes. The re- 
curring patterns are too protruding and too insistent and are 
repeated too far back in time to allow us the ease of any such 
cushioned interpretations. The uniqueness of all these individuals, 
Americans and Indians both, could dictate the many varieties and 
particular combinations of traits, attitudes, and feelings. Yet these 
many different kinds of Americans, mirroring in their reactions so 
many different kinds of Indians, were very often speaking of pre- 
cisely the same things, whether they were reacting to them favorably 
or otherwise. The Indian compositely pictured here is not the whole 
man or every man; each has his separateness. But he is a sum of all 
the resemblances seen in so many by so many Americans. These 
make him no mere creature of these American perceptions. He is in 
some part truly this Indian himself, with his charm, his generosity, 
his intellectual qualities, his capacity for friendship, and also with 
his many nettles, in his mixture of "good" and "bad" recognizably 
a part of the contemporary Indian reality. This is the Indian en- 
countered, the elite counterpart of the American who figures in this 
study and who also, by his recurring reactions, offers some clue to 
some of the qualities he holds in common with his fellows. In the 
major features of his portrait of the Indian, as we have already tried 
to suggest, there are many keys to the American's portrait of him- 

In the first and most all-embracing of these recurrent themes, this 
Indian is seen as the product or the victim of two warring cultures, 
the Western and his own. This is, of course, the great theme of 
modern Asian history. In the broadest sense it is the theme of all 
the history of our time. A vast literature, not all of it illuminating, 
already exists on this subject of the "East" and the "West," much 
of it soaring far from the human reality into stratospheric generali- 
zation. Let us say here only that this conflict has shaped the history 


of every Asian country in the last three centuries, that it has been 
part of the life story of every Asian wrenched by circumstance out 
of the traditional molds of his past. Only now is Western man be- 
ginning painfully to realize the extent of his own involvement in 
this process, because only now is he being called upon to pay his- 
tory's price for his brash and brutal assumption of overlordship of 
the world and all the other races of man inhabiting it. 

There have been many differences in the way this history has in- 
fluenced the social character of the people concerned in each of the 
affected Asian cultures. But one common result among upper-class 
types in almost all of them during the last three or four generations 
has been a fluctuating pattern of superiority and inferiority feelings, 
of overacceptance and overrejection, of deep resentments and frus- 
trated striving. In few places have these become as marked as they 
have in India, perhaps precisely because in India these resentments 
were the most deeply internalized, force was not met with force but 
passively, and even in the end, emancipation was sought not by 
physical means but by the assertion of an idealized doctrine of non- 
violence. The eruption of force that did occur was not directed at 
the foreign ruler but was internal and fratricidal. In Indians of the 
elite classes the carry-over of this experience in the makeup of indi- 
viduals who shared in it has assumed especially acute forms. It breaks 
upon the encountered Westerner, especially the American who 
thinks of himself as having had no part of the Indian's past, with a 
peculiarly aggravating impact. Out of this, then, at least in part, 
conies the defensive arrogance noted by so many admirers and critics 
alike, the inordinate self-love, self-preoccupation, self-glorification, 
and a considerable confusion of values. To all of this some Amer- 
icans are sympathetic, either because they accept the claim to su- 
periority, or because they feel a share in the guilt which helped 
produce it, or most rarely because in their friendships with Indians 
these strains are overcome and disappear. But much more frequently, 
as we have seen, especially in brief acquaintance and discovery, the 
effect is annoyance, antipathy, and even outrage. 

One set of these consequences has to do with the fact that this 
Indian's exposure to the West took place through British lenses. 
On him, therefore, we can find the marks of the blind and brutish 
acquisitiveness of the days of the East India Company, the imperial 
and racial arrogance that Kipling celebrated, the incredibly stuffy 
pukka sahibism speared so mercilessly by E. M. Forster in A Passage 


to India, with the converse of the toadyism in Indians which both 
these authors, in their separate ways, so clearly memorialized. 71 
From his mentors this Indian received too the concepts of law and 
of democratic institutions which the British honored so well at home 
and so much less well abroad. From British and other European- 
Orientalists he even also received the gift of a new view of his own 
Indian past, a glorification of his own religious and philosophic tra- 
ditions. All of these things and many more show through to the 
American in his present-day encounter with this Indian, and, most 
important of all perhaps, they are communicated in the English- 
man's language which is also, more or less, the American's own. 

The fact that this Indian usually speaks English so fluently has a 
curiously mixed role in the impact of these encounters. Thus a great 
many remark the unique ease of communicating with Indians en- 
countered, in contrast to so many other Asians. But a few perceive 
that the sharing of a tongue makes it easier for differences and dif- 
ficulties to make themselves felt. "Because he speaks English," 
shrewdly observed a panelist, "you ex P e ct him to be more like you 
than he turns out to be/' The differences that are often discovered 
through the fluency of talk can often be not so much Indian as 
English in source, for this Indian has borrowed more than a lan- 
guage. His identifications often extend to a whole range of British 
values, judgments, and even manners. If, as often happens, the par- 
ticular American is more or less Anglophile, the more "British" he 
finds an Indian the better he likes him; you will readily recall those 
for whom the "best" people in India are the Indian Civil Service 
or other types who show the greatest British influence in their ap- 
pearance, manner, outlook, and behavior. On the other hand, in a 
great many other Americans quite the opposite effect occurs. It is 
precisely this Anglicized quality in the Indian that they find the 
most irritating, either because they are something less than Anglo- 
phile or because they react against what they see as the "veneer" 
of the "half-baked Westerner" parading as something he is not 

This irritation often becomes especially sharp if this Indian's 
adoption of British outlooks includes, as it frequently does, the bor- 
rowing of some of the cruder British stereotypes about American 
values, education, culture, and even intelligence. It was, after all, no 

71 For an unusually provocative discuSvSion of Forster's A Passage to India 

\ t 

see Nirad C. Chaudhuri, "Passage to and from India/' Encounter, London, June, 


part of the British system of education for Indians, whether in Eng- 
land or in India, whether in schools or in the news and publications 
made available to Indian readers, to render America attractive. On 
the contrary, Indian students acquired from their British mentors a 
rather dim view of American culture. From the news selectively cir- 
culated by British agencies in India about America over many years, 
Indians learned much more about the seamier sides of American 
life than they ever did about any of its other aspects. The total effect 
in creating a pattern of attitudes is rather well illustrated by a 
passage from the autobiography of a British Labor member of Parlia- 
ment in which he describes an episode on a preindependence visit 
to India: 

One night I was at a small party where there were a number of Indians 
and British and two Americans. The Americans were not the best ex- 
amples of their country. They were loud, hectoring, naive, and somewhat 
foolish in emphasizing opinions of little value. They left before the rest 
of us. When they had gone the Indians and the British looked at each 
other, smiled, and continued the conversation. The look and the smile 
were exactly the same as those which would have been exchanged among 
the British if there had been no Indians present, or, I am sure, among the 
Indians if there had been no British present. Understanding was unspoken 
and complete. 72 

When this particular kind of Indian does not successfully con- 
ceal from an American, say a Harvard scholar, his opinion of Har- 
vard's (or any American university's) inferiority as compared to 
Oxford or Cambridge, he is quite unlikely to kindle the American's 
affection, especially if the American happens to be one who himself 
retains a vestigial inferiority complex about Oxford or Cambridge. 
Indian snobbism plus English snobbism is not a mixture calculated 
to arouse American enthusiasms except in the American who is 
willing to accept a quite low valuation of himself, his country, and 
all its works. Only the most secure among Americans can view this 
behavior more tolerantly, like the individual of high place and at- 
tainments who said he could bear with Krishna Menon's patroniz- 
ing air because he could see that Menon had to assume it to satisfy 
some deepand rather pathetic need. But few Americans have this 
much assurance. More often the American of this class still feels 
himself one of a "new" people almost everyone in the present panel 

?2 Woodrow Wyatt, Into the Dangerous World, London, 1952, p. 93. 


occupies a place in society different from his father's too "new" 
to have formed the thicker crust it takes to feel assuredly superior 
to the vagaries of all others. He may sometimes be able to concede 
some measure of this superiority to the Englishman, especially the 
upper-class Englishman, for the English do after all stand in so 
many ways in a parental relationship to the American. But in the 
Indian it is seen as an unwarranted and usually intolerable assump- 
tion, for in every way that is important to him, this American feels if 
not superior certainly not inferior to the Indian. 

The American who feels some share of responsible guilt for this 
experience in its racial aspects, for example is likely to react more 
understandingly. He is the American, you may recall from the ex- 
amples given, who was made to feel that it was up to him in India 
to prove his bona fides to the Indians and who could not feel it 
unjust that his Indian friends felt no need to prove themselves to 
him. But most Americans do not think of themselves as bearing any 
responsibility for the colonial past. They come into the new situa- 
tion expecting to be liked and even admired, perhaps often feeling 
that as Americans they deserve a certain benevolent gratitude for 
being different from other Westerners and for what they feel to 
have been the American record of always being on the side of the 
angels where the issue of freedom was concerned. Many are taken 
rather aback to discover their self-image bears little or no resemblance 
to the Indian's image of them. "Joe likes to be liked/' said the wife 
of one of our panelists, "and when he discovered that the Indians 
didn't like him, he disliked them right back." The clash of personali- 
ties indicated in so many of these impressions is in great measure 
a clash of ego involvements and insecurities on both sides. 

The psychological consequences of the colonial experience, here 
so briefly glimpsed, are heavily marked indeed on this Indian with 
whom we are concerned. In his frequent impatience and lack of 
sympathy, the American very often fails to appreciate how deep 
and abiding these consequences are and how long it is going to 
take for them to fade. But the heritage from the colonial past is not 
the whole story. The Indians were not the only people to have this 
experience. Many others, including the Chinese, shared it and suf- 
fered the same consequences of ambivalence, of schizoid cultural 
exposures, of profound repression and dislocation, of subjection to 
senseless and infuriating dominance by "superior" Westerners. In 
the postcolonial period, the urbanized, Western-educated elite in- 


tellectual in all of these countries also shares with his Indian coun- 
terpart the often remarked apartness from his own society, the gulf 
of ignorance, impotence, and sometimes even contempt between 
him and the masses of his own people. He has also often shared a 
certain upper-class indifference or a greater acceptance of the squalid 
and degrading poverty of the mass, to which the American may 
sometimes react with mere fastidious distaste but more often and 
more characteristically with shame and indignation and a strong 
sense of the need for somebody to do something about it. Many in 
these countries have now begun the enormous task of bridging the 
gulf, of raising their social and economic sights and of budging the 
villages from their changelessness. But all alike they are individuals 
faced with overwhelming tasks and responsibilities to which, most 
often, they feel hardly equal. There is no uniqueness in the Indian 
in this respect, except perhaps in the larger size of the demand made 
upon him and the effect upon his particular personality of his sense 
of inadequacy. 

But in all these respects the comparable middle- and upper-class 
types among such peoples as the Burmese, Indonesians, Vietnamese, 
and others have gone through the same deforming history and show 
many of the same stigmata as the Indians do. Yet contact between 
them and Americans rarely seems to produce the pattern of reaction 
created by contact with their Indian counterparts. On the contrary, 
individuals in the panel repeatedly insisted upon the uniqueness of 
their experience with Indians. If anything like it ever occurred with 
other Asians, it was exceptional or much less intense. There is even 
considerable evidence to suggest that a great many of these other 
Asians react to their Indian counterparts much as these Americans 

What then, beyond the colonial experience and its effects, is pe- 
culiarly "Indian" about the figure who emerges from this great array 
of impressions? Obviously we are not equipped here to attempt any 
full or systematic answer to this question or to enter into any dis- 
cussion of the "Indian" personality, if, indeed, such a thing exists. 
We shall deal only with some of the major features that come into 
view on the portrait our Americans have drawn. 

To begin with, there is the shape and substance given to this 
Indian by the whole unique Indian complex of which he is a part. 
Behind and around this figure of the urbanized, college-educated, 
English-speaking individual stand all the crowding figures of Indians 


in the mass, all the peculiarities of caste and Untouchability, of 
Hindu religiosity, practices, and customs. Toward the "benighted- 
ness" of popular Hinduism, this Indian may often take a view not 
too different in essence from that of his American counterpart. Only 
he is less indignant, more passive, rejecting in the abstract what he 
may tend to accept more or less involuntarily in real life. His iden- 
tifications with it all are strong enough often to lead him to defend 
against the Western critic what he might not ordinarily defend and 
perhaps might even attack when the Western critic is absent and 
the sensibilities which the Westerner can so easily touch are not 
aroused. This is no simple situation for this Indian, since his com- 
munity, his family, his parents, and even his wife as a rule still 
piously accept much that he might sometimes feel tempted to re- 
ject. Except in the tiny grouplets of the most thoroughly "Western- 
ized" people, he has had little external sanction or support for such 
open rejection. Only to a very moderate extent and only for a very 
few was any such rejection involved in embracing the nationalist 
cause. Gandhi himself was a foe of Untouchability and he decried 
some of the excesses of caste practice, but he did not confront the 
inertness of Indian society and beliefs as an apostle of a Western- 
style modernism. Few were ever as sweeping as Nehru in denounc- 
ing common Indian religious practices as superstition. But most 
Indians of this class have been much more bound than Nehru by 
the ambivalences in their life situations. Hence the common experi- 
ence of encountering the Westernized Indian whose home and fam- 
ily are still strictly traditionalist and rarely entered by the foreigner. 
Hence the anomalies noted by some of our panelists, like Western- 
trained physicians whose own wives are delivered of children in the 
old manner, or like "college graduates in cow-protection societies/ 7 
Whatever the degree of conflict created by these situations, this 
Indian if he is not Parsi or Muslim or Christian remains a Hindu 
of some sort without necessarily feeling at one with the man who 
lies on a bed of nails. The permissiveness of Hinduism offers him 
wide latitudes in which to dwell with his beliefs, a space perhaps 
larger but not too different from the range in American Protestantism 
from agnostic humanism to ultrafundamentalism, or in our society 
generally from atheism to Roman Catholicism. 

As it appears to most of our present Americans, the "Hinduism" 
of this college-educated, English-speaking Indian assumes more in- 
tellectualized forms. They have to do largely with the way in which 


this Indian seems to the American to think. The American would 
note again and again that the Indian he encountered seemed given 
to certain nonrational habits of thought, perhaps even to a kind 
of mysticism, which would take the Indian into areas where the 
more pragmatic-minded American could not follow him. This was 
the notion of the oft-mentioned "barrier" in communication, the 
sense the American so often had of being left behind at this barrier 
where it was still anchored in reality while his Indian interlocutor 
took off into extraintellectual space. Here, many noted, were the 
limits not only of friendship but even of ordinary conversation. It 
would be suggested that beyond this barrier, the Indian floated free 
among abstract categories visible and graspable only to him, his own 
farther reaches of philosophy or his private platform for communion 
with the Infinite. One can readily suspect a certain element of exag- 
geration both in this Indian posture and in the American's reaction 
to it, but the core of a truth is here, attested by too many witnesses 
friendly and unfriendly to be dismissed as imaginary. A few Amer- 
icans, perhaps heirs to Emersonian mysticism or German idealism, 
felt they could pursue their Indian friends at least part way into 
this void; a few others of more inquiring bent sometimes viewed 
this evaporation of their more normal categories with at least a 
curious respect. But the more typical American product of a "com- 
mon sense" culture or of the James-Dewey era in philosophy and 
education was much more likely to react with exasperated incom- 
prehension, and most often he did. To him this Indian's evanescent 
philosophic garb was no more substantial than the emperor's new 
clothes. When he put them on, the Indian was simply escaping from 
reality, from problem-solving, from all the hard demands of existence. 
Here in this setting appear all the many observations that this 
Indian is largely given to abstractions and is a stranger to empirical 
thought, that he is readier and abler to talk than to do, that he is 
happy among large and smooth generalizations and acutely uncom- 
fortable among smaller thornier facts, and that at many levels of 
interest political, administrative, or scholarly this makes effective 
communication difficult and sometimes impossible. But of all his 
habits of thought, the most baffling and often the most aggravating 
is often described as this Indian's peculiar capacity to house unre- 
solved contradictions in his mind, not only without feeling the need 
for resolution but often even without acknowledging their contrari- 
ness. This was the way he seemed to manage to live in two worlds. 


This was how he might often claim simultaneous allegiance both 
to Marxist and to Gandhian economic ideas. This was how he could 
seem so often to see himself as "holier than thou" when it seemed 
plain to the American that there was at least as much common clay 
in the soil of Indian culture as in his own. This was how the Indian 
could righteously abhor the white man's racism while denying or 
rationalizing his own. This was how he could wear the mantle of 
Hinduism's principle of universal toleration while displaying what 
appeared to the American to be an acute degree of intolerance. This 
appeared in large areas of tension in Indian life, religious, com- 
munal, caste, and linguistic, and especially in the great disputes that 
today divide the world. It is this "housing of contradiction" that so 
often looks to the American like plain self-deception, patent insin- 
cerity, or downright hypocrisy. This was the business of the Indian 
"talking out of both sides of his mouth' 7 and his unreceptivity to the 
views of others. On all these scores the American has most often 
and most strongly felt that his readiness to differ respectfully with 
the Indian has not in the least been reciprocated. Perhaps above 
all else in the experience of these encounters, these mental and moral 
acrobatics produced the strongest hostility in those disposed to be 
unfriendly and produced the most defensive explanations among 
some of this Indian's warmest friends and admirers. 

There is always in such reflections the danger of a certain pre- 
sumption, no matter how dispassionate the purpose or good the will 
involved. Certainly the refractions from a group of Indians per- 
ceived through the minds of a group of Americans leave wide mar- 
gins for distortion, no matter how representative the groups on both 
sides. The possible unreality or at least the incompleteness of this 
portrait might be suggested to the American reader by these adjec- 
tives applied by Indians to Americans: 

materialistic, pragmatic, arrogant, smug 7 frivolous, condescending, in- 
tolerant, self-righteous, insular, morally loose, lacking in family insti- 
tutions. . . . 

Such characterizations, which can be duplicated from innumerable 
Indian sources, happen to come from a group of Indian students 
in the United States and occurred in a series of interviews with an 
Indian psychologist who was studying the process of their adaptation 


to American life, 73 From this same source, however, we also get a 
few unaccustomed glimpses of Indian self-images. These same stu- 
dents applied to themselves, among other more favorable terms, the 
following adjectives: 

prejudiced, cynical, hypercritical, jealous, arrogant, fatalistic, apathetic, 
passive. . . . 

One of them enlarged on a familiar theme: 

We are at the stage when we are reacting against things. . . . These 
reactions lead to a certain arrogance, which is an overcompensation 
for a felt inferiority, and it hinders a sane outlook. We try to cover it 
up by saying, "We are as good as you" instead of remedying the spe- 
cific error or lack. This is not so pronounced among Indians at home 
as among Indians here. 

Another said: 

Few people among Indians seem to manage themselves in such a 
way as to show that they are quite confident of their activities and can 
react to Americans as persons. 

From another, an echo that we have also heard before: 

The Indians love talking for the intrinsic enjoyment of it and not for 
any specific purpose. Anglo-Saxon people do not talk much but they 
mean what they talk. They use language as a medium to convey their 
thoughts. The Indians use language for the enjoyment of the language 
itself or conversation. 

Finally, a reverse twist on the matter of religion: 

Religion is taken seriously here, even by scientists. ... I did not 
expect [this]. ... In India students do not care too much about reli- 
gion or even think about it or analyze it. . - . 

These glimpses from Indians suggest how helpful it might be if 
we knew more than we do of this kind of Indian's self-image and 
if the process of mutual discovery could take place in a kindlier or 
less strained atmosphere than usually surrounds the typical American- 
Indian encounter at the present time. 

But even as we write these lines, there comes to hand a rather 

78 George Coelho, "Acculturative Learning; A Study of Reference Groups/* 
unpublished ms,, 1956. Cf. Khushwant Singh, "What Are the Dominant Traits 
of Indian Character/' Illustrated Weekly of India, Bombay, December 18, 1955, 
and letters to the editor in the issues of January 8, 15, 22, 1956. 


authoritative Indian self-analysis which reproduces much of the 
detail if not the feeling-toneof the portrait that has emerged 
from the experience and impressions of these Americans. Many have 
said that the Indian encountered, when confronted with some of his 
contradictions, often reacts defensively, suggesting that the Ameri- 
can simply does not understand the subtlety of the power to straddle 
two planes in mental space. But not so Jawaharlal Nehru writing for 
his own countrymen. Here, to place side by side with the more syn- 
thetic portrait these Americans have created, is Nehru's picture of 
exactly the same subject: T4 

The fact that India was for long a closed land gave it its peculiar 
character. We became as a race somewhat inbred. We developed some 
customs which are unknown and not understood in other parts of the 
world. Caste, in its innumerable forms, is a typical product of India. 
Untouchability, the objections to inter-dining, inter-marriage, etc., are 
unknown in any other country. The result was a certain narrowness in 
our outlook. Indians, even to the present day, find it difficult to mix with 
others. Not only that, but each caste tends to remain separate even 
when they go to other countries. Most of us in India take all this for 
granted and do not realize how it astonishes and even shocks the people 
of other countries. 

Thus, in India, we developed at one and the same time the broadest 
tolerance and catholicity of thought, as well as the narrowest social forms 
of behavior. This split personality has pursued us and we struggle against 
it even today. We overlook and excuse our own failings and narrowness 
of custom and habit by referring to the great thoughts we have inherited 
from our ancestors. But there is an essential conflict between the two, and 
so long as we do not resolve it, we shall continue to have this split per- 

In a more or less static period these opposed elements did not come 
into conflict with each other much. But as the tempo of political and 
economic change has grown faster, these conflicts also have come more 
into evidence. . . . We are compelled by overwhelming circumstances to 
put an end to this inner conflict. . . . The industrial revolution is coming 
rapidly to India and changing us in many ways. It is an inevitable conse- 
quence of political and economic change that there should be social 
changes also if we arc to remain as integrated human beings and an intc- 

74 From "The Crisis of the Spirit in India/' written as a preface to The Pour 
Phases of Culture (in Hindi), by R. D. Sinha Dinkar. The English text was 
issued by the Government of India Press Information Bureau on February 21, 
1956. It also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, March n, 1956, under 
the title: "Nchw Explains India's 'Split Personality.' " 


grated nation. We cannot . . . imagine that we can continue unchanged 
in the social sphere. The stresses and strains will be too great and, if we 
do not resolve them, we shall crack up. ... 

We talk still, as of old, in the highest terms, but we act differently. It 
is extraordinary how our professions run far ahead of our practice. We 
talk of peace and nonviolence and function in a different way. We talk of 
tolerance and construe it to mean our way of thinking only and are in- 
tolerant of other ways. We proclaim our ideal that of a philosophic de- 
tachment even in the midst of action . . . but we act on a far lower plane, 
and a growing indiscipline degrades us as individuals and as a community. 

When the Westerners came here across the seas, the closed land of 
India was again thrown open in a particular direction. The modern in- 
dustrial civilization gradually crept in in a passive way. New thoughts and 
ideas invaded us and our intellectuals developed the habit of thinking 
like British intellectuals. That shaking up and opening out was good in 
its own way and it began to give us some understanding of the modern 
world. But this cut off these intellectuals from the mass of the people, 
who were little affected by the new wave of thought. Our traditional 
thinking was displaced and those who still clung to it did so in a static 
and tmcreative way, totally unrelated to modern conditions. Now this 
faith in Western thought is itself being shaken and so we have neither 
the old nor the new, and we drift not knowing whither we are going. . . . 
This is a dangerous situation and if not checked and improved is likely 
to lead to grave consequences. 

Thus Nehru, no ordinary Indian or ordinary man, says in his way 
what so many of these Americans have said or glimpsed, with more 
or less sympathy and understanding, in their many particular ways. 
We can perhaps at least sense from these juxtapositions the realities 
in these two portraits, the Indian and the American, both men liv- 
ing in a time of great transformations, the Indian faced with the 
need to change not only his society but himself, and the American 
confronting the enormous demands of his new role in human affairs 
and his need to win new relationships for himself among people in a 
world no longer dominated by the Western white man. 

To their encounter in this time, this Indian and this American 
bring, as we have seen, not only their strong transient feelings about 
current affairs, but also a whole mass of clustering influences and 
attitudes often rooted in their different histories and cultures. This 
is why so many of the resulting reactions echo those which can be 
traced far back in time, But there is much in this encounter, too, 
which is crude and new and tentative and shifting. It can be said 


almost certainly that any examination of American-Indian relation- 
ships even a decade or two decades hence will show how profound 
the changes are that are beginning only now. From that point in 
time, this report may serve at least to suggest how the matter stood 
when it all began. 




REPORT ENDS HERE. We have summoned up these many 
11 images of the Chinese and the Indians. We have described them 
as they appeared in a number of American minds. We have traced 
origins, measured historical dimensions, and examined their relation 
to the experience and contact of individuals. This has been a many- 
sided exploration and, as best we could, we have carried each part 
to its own conclusion. There are many other aspects of the matter 
to be explored, many observations still to pursue, and a great many 
questions which this inquiry has left in my own mind, and, I hope, 
in the reader's. I would like, in the manner of a postscript, to muse 
about some of these in some final pages. 

What is Image, What is Real? 

Certain Chinese artists had a way of painting mountains which 
I had always taken to be an artistic convention until once, in north- 
ern Kwangsi, I came down among just such mountains as I had 
seen before only on parchment or on silk. They were unbelievably 
sorted in cones and knobs and a great host of unmountainly shapes 
rising at random from the flat valley floor and threaded together by 
fine curls of white mist. These mountains and the paintings of them 



come back to mind now as I think back over all the images that have 
crowded through these many pages and I hear a troubled reader 
asking: What is real? What is shadow, what is substance? 

There is no tidy answer to this question. None of these images 
seems to me wholly a creature of pure fantasy. Each represents the 
effect of somebody's experience, the "truth" of somebody's percep- 
tion. However fleeting, every perception is still an encounter of some 
kind between perceiver and perceived, one of that endless succession 
of interlocking observations that never quite tell the whole story. 
I know it would be simpler if it were otherwise, but I have no set of 
models, no certified genuine original portraits to which I can com- 
pare these many vignettes, no master answer sheet on which I can 
now tick off, true or false, any of these many images we have 
glimpsed through these American eyes. By unanimous or nearly 
unanimous consent, we can doubtless crop a few absurdities from 
the fringe, e.g., the rope trick Indian, Fu Manchu, the nerveless 
Chinese. But very little can really be excluded from the great host 
of particulars. The jeweled maharajahs were real enough, and so were 
the fakirs on nails, the bodies, alive or dead, on the streets of Cal- 
cutta or Shanghai, the Indian saints, and the Chinese sages. I would 
not be surprised to learn that there were sliding doors and secret 
passages in some American Chinatown establishment, and I have 
little doubt that somewhere, sometime, some Chinese cook did take 
off after juvenile tormenters with a meat cleaver in his hand. There 
is no end, as Ripley showed, to what can be believed or not. The 
trouble begins with the unwitting or witless process by which we 
generalize from the small fact or single experience. 

The mind's bent to make much out of little is, of course, part of 
the secret of human genius. This is how children learn not to play 
with fire and how men, gradually marshaling and sharpening their 
wits with increasing rigor and discipline, have learned most of what 
they know about the universe, about the earth, about each other, 
and about themselves. Once in a great while, the act of the mind 
that turns some particular picture into a universal symbol is an 
act of creation: great perception, great humor, great art. Not with 
greatness but with a decent respect for the needs of our common 
understanding, many people of course employ the normal devices of 
generalization every day of their lives. But equally every clay these 
are checked for relevance and validity against the realities with which 
they must cope. In a great many matters, however, in a great many 


minds, what goes on is a kind of mental trickery, a process of en- 
largement whereby we people our worlds 'with caricatures which 
appease some private or social needs. To distinguish between myth 
and reality in what we think and see requires effort and discipline. 
To do this we have to examine, each of us, how we register and 
house our observations, how we come to our judgments, how we 
enlarge upon them, how we describe them, and what purposes they 
serve for us. Even if a man discovers all this about himself, his 
reality need not be uniform with any other man's, for in each man 
substance can end and shadow begin at some different point. This 
point is located by the endlessly different combinations of a man's 
culture, education, and place in society; the time and place of his 
particular experience; the traits and drives of his individual personal- 
ity. By examining the images we hold, say, of the Chinese and In- 
dians, we can learn a great deal about Chinese and Indians, but 
mostly we learn about ourselves and about how, in each of us, this 
process of triangulation takes place. It is in some way unique in 
every man. 

On this passage of inquiry through these many minds, I was heav- 
ily reinforced in my appreciation for the unending variety of indi- 
vidual uniqueness. But along the way I was also impressed by the 
influential accumulation of attitudes, images, and notions held in 
common by large groups or commonly attributed to others. I fear 
that I learned only a little about the specter of personality that 
makes men unique, but I was led by this experience to look at their 
common holdings with a new eye. There was obviously a clustering 
of more than one kind of uniformity among these individuals. A 
man can be an island, but islands are not often isolated atolls or 
lonely rocks. They lie mostly in archipelagos or at least in groups, 
and have many features alike. In this relation to each other, too, 
stood many members of our panel. 

Some Common Holdings 

It is quite plain, to begin with, that large groups in our panel of 
181 Americans shared a great many biases concerning the Chinese 
and the Indians. Here are the bare bones of a summary of what we 

Ninety-eight, or 54 per cent, expressed more or less strongly 
negative views about Indians. Some of this antipathy was attributa- 
ble to feelings over foreign policy differences. But it clearly had 


deeper roots, reproducing in some respects much older American 
reactions to Hindu life and culture. The antipathy was directed most 
particularly, however, toward Indians in the same professional classes 
as these Americans, and with but few exceptions these were Indians 
encountered by these Americans during the last ten years, the first 
decade of Indian independence. 

One hundred twenty-three, or 70 per cent, expressed predom- 
inantly positive or admiring views of Chinese, applying these views 
to China as a nation, to Chinese culture as a whole, and to Chinese 
people of all sorts and classes, as known, encountered, or in some 
way discovered most generally in the years between 1920 and 1940. 
Changes reflecting the more recent circumstances have only just 
begun to weaken these attitudes, especially in individuals in whom 
they were not too strongly lodged. 

Thirty-nine individuals in our panel "liked" both Chinese and 
Indians; 17 "disliked" both. There were 17 who "liked" Indians but 
did not "like" Chinese, But there were 72 who "liked" Chinese and 
"disliked" Indians. 

This pattern of reaction held with remarkable consistency no 
matter how we sorted these Americans, by the kind and amount 
of their contact, by their policies, by their degrees of involvement 
in Asian affairs, or by their professional groups. In every grouping 
there was a predominantly positive view of the Chinese and either 
a roughly even division or a preponderantly unfavorable view of In- 
dians. The Chinese stood highest in the esteem of those who had 
most contact with them and lowest (though never very low) among 
those who knew them least. On the other hand, Indians scored bet- 
ter among those who knew them little who tended to polarize to 
the extremes of "like" or "dislike" than among those who knew 
them wellwho tended to be more moderate or more mixed in their 
reactions. Thus 12 of our 16 China specialists were strongly positive 
about Chinese, 4 were "mixed," and none was negative. Of the 25 
India specialists, 9 were positive about Indians, 9 negative, and 7 

China-identified individuals had notably uniform attitudes about 
Indians. Of the 16 China specialists, 15 were strongly antipathetic, 
and only i was not. India-identified people were much less uniform 
in their reactions to Chinese, but there is a faint flavor of recipro- 
cation about some of the figures. Of the 6 individuals, for example, 
who were most strongly admiring of the Indians, 3 distinctly did not 


admire the Chinese at all. Of our 25 India specialists, 7 had nega- 
tive views of the Chinese, a higher proportion (28 per cent) than 
appeared in any group within the panel. Of 65 panelists who had 
visited India but had never been to China, 13, or 20 per cent, were 
cool about the Chinese, while of 32 panelists who had visited both 
China and India, only 3 "disliked" Chinese while 21 "disliked" 

From all the information and all the impressions at hand, I can 
say that I would expect this general pattern to be confirmed, repro- 
duced, and reinforced by any wider or more systematically stratified 
inquiry in the same general milieu at this time. The evidence for 
this is strong and is multiplied in my own knowledge by instance 
after instance going far beyond the numbers of our present panel 
or the period of time in which these particular interviews were con- 
ducted. We are obviously confronted here with a community of 
views and reactions that extends far beyond these individual digits 
and derives from a body of common holdings covering a quite large 
area of experience. 

Much about the character of these common holdings has already 
been suggested in the body of this report. It has been shown in many 
ways, for example, that many of these images and attitudes are 
products of their time and place and circumstances. It has been 
shown that dominant American reactions to China fluctuated widely 
during the xyo-year history of American-Chinese contact, while 
American-Indian experience is connected only by thin strands to 
any distant past, and that this suggests that much is subject to 
change in the present patterns relating to Indians. True as this 
may be, it does not tell the whole story. For it is usually not the at- 
tributes that are changed by circumstances, but the way they are 
seen, a matter, again, of those lights shining at different times from 
different directions on different facets of what there is to see. Even 
under this constantly flickering and moving light, moreover, it is 
plain that some parts of the picture have always been in view. The 
lines of admiration for the Chinese, and of fear and mistrust as well, 
have been there from the beginning, have never been quite wholly 
effaced at any time since, and will not disappear wholly from any 
new views the future may disclose. It is similarly plain that the 
Westerner's capacity to be shocked and repelled by the Indian and 
his culture goes far, far back there are intimations of it even in 


Marco Polo's brief account of his Indian travelsdeeply underpin- 
ning and long antedating the irritation felt by so many Americans 
over so temporal a matter as Nehru's foreign policy, or by the be- 
havior of Indians attributable to the newness of their independence. 

How else may we, then, begin to define any of these common 
holdings? I bring no ready set of answers to this question, only some 
discussion. These are, by definition, large matters. They take us 
into a region of large and normally careless generalizations, a place 
where one ordinarily hunts for intellectual prey, but where now I 
warily seek some food for thought. One of the largest beasts rumored 
to be native here is now referred to in some social scientific dialects 
as "national character." Many hunters seek him in the belief that 
they will find hiding in his coat some of those bits of lively truth 
that are said to inhabit all popular national stereotypes. But like 
the Abominable Snowman, he has never yet been clearly seen, much 
less trapped and exhibited. The chances are that he never will be 
until he is much more precisely and narrowly located and identi- 
fied. He may not, indeed, be like the Abominable Snowman at all, 
but more like the giraffe before which that man in the cartoon stood 
and declared: 'There ain't no such animal!" 

I do not propose to enter any abstract discussion about "national 
character," Snowman variety or giraffe. But I do want to consider 
here much more seriously than I would have when I embarked 
on this inquiry the possible meanings that attach to the single 
words "Chinese" or "Indian" or "American." All other identifying 
details apart, what might these adjectives alone suggest by way of 
common holdings of the people of all three nationalities who have 
figured in our study? These nationality labels are words that vibrate 
at many different frequencies for different people. To me they sig- 
nify certain large geographic and certain very broad cultural identi- 
fications within which the possible varieties of individuality are 
without number. Yet I find myself now somewhat more willing than 
I was before to consider the possibility that they can be somewhat 
more descriptive, that they can suggest the presence of certain cul- 
tural traits, modes, even ideas. These can vary enormously in expres- 
sion from individual to individual, but remain nevertheless in some 
form the common holding of large universes of people. As such, 
they can exert some particular effect on members of other large 
groups of people when contact takes place across cultural boundaries. 
As one possible example, I offer the phenomenon of li, the Chi- 


nese code of correct manners. Our panelists gave especially high 
marks, the reader will recall, to the special Chinese brand of cour- 
tesy, sensitivity, charming manners. Now the Chinese code of cor- 
rect manners is as precise as a manual of arms or of court protocol. 
It is a system designed to assure within certain clearly defined 
limits that every man's ego is decently respected, or at least not 
publicly diminished. There is nothing uniquely Chinese about the 
business of gaining, saving, or losing "face" it goes on in some form 
in every human society. But the Chinese acquired a special repu- 
tation in this matter because they acquired a high skill for it, turn- 
ing it almost into an art form, full of formal convention, yet often 
extraordinarily satisfying in its effects. Chinese politeness was de- 
signed to smooth away all surface frictions. It established orderly 
priorities for almost all human relationships and the proper form 
of behavior for each one. Systems much like this exist in other 
societies but none, seemingly, with the patina and quality of the 
Chinese at its best. This is why Chinese amenities were always so 
charming, Chinese hospitality so attractive, and almost all encoun- 
ters with Chinese so pleasantly memorable. In most of the ordinary 
business of human intercourse, this system accomplished its purpose 
admirably. Since over most of the period of American contact with 
Chinese in China, the foreigner almost automatically enjoyed high 
status and a high degree of deference, it was especially successful 
with foreigners and particularly so with Americans. 

The system was fine so long as it was never tested for depth. It 
was based on the notion that most human contact is superficial 
and should be kept that way. Designed to preserve smooth surfaces, 
it did not allow much room for the free play of greater intimacy or 
interplay and expression of any deeper emotions. In times of stress, 
this politeness screened all sorts of unruly and unpleasant contradic- 
tions. In such circumstances, Chinese behavior could and did look 
to the foreigner like insincerity or downright dishonesty. This was 
the familiar judgment on Chinese manners in the difficult decades 
of the nineteenth century, and it has cropped up again in our own 
century whenever the going between Americans and Chinese got 
rough, especially during World War II, and since. The "devious- 
ness" or "dishonesty 77 or "matrustworthiness" of the familiar nega- 
tive stereotypes are, after all, only the undersides of good Chinese 
manners as they appear if the basic relationship is one of conflict, 
No American now is likely to mistake the well-known charm of 


Chou En-lai for a quality of inner virtue. But over the long period 
of time when the foreigner's superior status was acknowledged in 
fact as well as in form, it was a good deal easier for foreigners to 
believe in the sincerity of Chinese charm and the reality of Chinese 
deference. Many foreigners in China, especially teachers and schol- 
ars and masters of crafts, like ship captains or engineers, had every 
reason to feel they were being genuinely respected, especially in the 
years when so many Chinese were so seriously engaged in learning 
all they could about Western ways from Western tutors. This def- 
erence was, to be sure, often overdone and was associated with weak- 
ness; it sometimes became obsequious and generated contempt and 
patronage. This was not an uncommon form of the foreigner's ex- 
perience and behavior in China, especially in the treaty ports. But 
in most cases, even when Chinese deference was understood to be 
a formal posture, I suspect that it was difficult for most Americans 
not to respond to it with eager self-appreciation. All other things 
being more or less equal, it is a rare ego that is proof against infla- 
tion, a rare man who will not believe that deference shown him 
is well merited. On this sure and shrewd knowledge, the Chinese 
built their code for interpersonal relations. As our present study 
and much other evidence shows, it has helped them make friends 
and influence people for a long, long time. 

It is quite difficult to suggest any example of a similar single com- 
mon holding of Indians or Americans comparable in character and 
effect to conventional Chinese manners. Much was said of Indian 
courtesy to travelers and hospitality to guests, and there was testi- 
mony to a subtle, even delicate sensitivity in many Indians met, 
known, and admired. But in most accounts the accent was much 
heavier and more frequent either on the obsequiousness of servants 
or the aggressiveness of Indian intellectuals, an outspokenne